Lockyer ready to play 'real' NZ team - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Lockyer ready to play 'real' NZ team

By Adrian Proszenko 13/10/2006 05:28:01 PM Comments (0)

Kangaroos captain Darren Lockyer says the Tri Nations campaign will provide a better indication of the quality of New Zealand's squad than the lopsided Anzac Test result.

The Kiwis, pummelled 50-12 in the mid-season clash, said this week they would prefer to be judged on their Tri Nations campaign, citing the absence of key personnel during the Suncorp Stadium encounter.

On that occasion, inspirational captain Ruben Wiki pulled out with injury at the last minute, while several England-based players were unavailable.

"The Anzac Test is a one-off game and I think now they've got their full squad together they'll be looking to repeat what they did (in the final) last year," Lockyer said.

"They've got seven weeks to get themselves into a position to win the title again.

"You would probably say they weren't at full strength mid-season, but now all their English-based players are back they probably think this is their best team and best chance."

Meanwhile, Kangaroos coach Ricky Stuart has paid Darren Lockyer the ultimate complement on the eve of the big game, predicting the champion pivot will be remembered as "one of Australia's great captains".

Stuart made the surprising assessment during Australia's final training session at Mt Smart Stadium, a venue under increasing scrutiny following rumours the Kiwis have intentionally shortened the dimensions of the field to blunt the visitors' expansive game.

The Kiwis created a furore prior to the opening match of the 2001 series when they marked out a field just 61 metres in width - seven metres short of the international regulations agreed by the three competing nations.

The issue surfaced again after the original field markings were rubbed out and new sidelines marked - a metre in on each touchline.

The in-goals were also shortened by up to three metres, raising questions if they were the shorter than the required eight metres.

Kiwi officials claimed the field was a standard size.

"No one has complained to us ... I'd be surprised if it wasn't regulation," Australian Rugby League chief executive Geoff Carr said.

Lockyer downplayed any effect a skinnier field would have on the result.

"I don't think that will impact us too much, both teams will have to play on the same field, so it won't impact us at all," he said.

Stuart claimed Lockyer had grown into the leadership role to the point where he was one of the best skippers in Australia's proud 99-year Test-match history.

"Darren Lockyer, we all know what type of ability he's got," Stuart said.

"Where I think Darren Lockyer has matured and improved his game is his leadership.

"He's an outstanding leader and I said that after the Anzac Test this year after first having my first experience with Darren.

"He'll go down in the record books as one of Australia's great captains."

Lockyer has captained the Kangaroos on 14 occasions for 11 wins, two losses and a draw, a win-loss record that is comparable to the great Test skippers of the past including Mal Meninga, Wally Lewis and Clive Churchill.

Asked how Lockyer's leadership skills had evolved, Stuart said: "I think just maturity changes you, changes all of us.

"Not that he had any problems, but I think maturity gives you more responsibility and he's taken that on and done a fine job of it."

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