All Golds brace for NZ Maori clash - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

All Golds brace for NZ Maori clash

By Robert Lowe 10/10/2008 02:26:39 PM Comments (0)

The match might be a send-off for rugby league great Ruben Wiki, but the All Golds are expecting few favours from the New Zealand Maori in New Plymouth on Sunday.

Skipper Nathan Cayless is preparing for more than a festival-style run-around against the Maori, with players in both teams facing more important challenges ahead.

The All Golds are drawn mainly from the Kiwi squad, who have just one other outing, against Tonga in Auckland next week, before they open their World Cup campaign against defending champions Australia.

The Maori are building up to meet the Australian Indigenous side in the curtain raiser to the Kiwis-Kangaroos clash at the Sydney Football Stadium on October 26.

Cayless also believes some in the Maori side - who, bar fullback Kevin Locke, have all played NRL football - will have a point to prove.

"They'll be pretty pumped to be playing against us and probably proving that they should have been in the Kiwi squad," Cayless said.

Parramatta skipper Cayless, who is returning to the Test captaincy in the injury-enforced absence of Roy Asotasi, said match fitness would be an issue for him and some of the other All Golds.

With the Eels failing to make the NRL playoffs, he hasn't been in action for the past month.

"Obviously we've got a big responsibility to send out a player like Ruben in the way he deserves and it's going to be a big occasion," he said.

"But we're also taking this match very seriously. Match fitness is going to be a bit rusty, but that's why we've got these two lead-up games."

Wiki, a former Kiwi skipper who was capped a world record 55 times, will be playing his last match in New Zealand, as will another All Gold, ex-international second rower Logan Swann.

Another Kiwi great, halfback Stacey Jones, has answered a request from Wiki to come out of retirement to line up alongside him.

The Maori squad has a youthful look, but contains five players who have appeared in Tests for New Zealand, with Wairangi Koopu the most experienced of the quintet.

The others to have worn the Kiwi jersey are Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Bronson Harrison, Chase Stanley and Jason Nightingale, who was on Thursday called up for the World Cup after the withdrawal of fullback Brent Webb through injury.

Maori coach Luke Goodwin said his players wouldn't be holding back, even if there might be a sense of awe at coming up against the likes of Wiki and Jones.

"These young guys don't know any other way," he said.

"We won't be playing marbles."

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