Bennett blast has Kiwis primed - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Bennett blast has Kiwis primed

By Mark Geenty 21/10/2008 11:24:49 AM Comments (0)

A blast from coaching guru Wayne Bennett and a vow to rid past ill-discipline has steeled the Kiwis for their rugby league World Cup opener against hosts Australia on Sunday.

Captain Nathan Cayless said Bennett had quickly jolted the Kiwis into the right frame of mind.

"Wayne doesn't muck around with his words, he let us know exactly what he expects and let us know exactly what he thought of our game in May. He was pretty disappointed in that game," Cayless said.

That was the previous time the Kiwis faced the Kangaroos, a 28-12 defeat in the Centenary test at the SCG when Stephen Kearney and Bennett took the coaching reins for the first time.

A woeful first half, when the Kiwis trailed 20-0 in as many minutes, was followed by an impressive second spell when they had the better of the hosts.

It stretched the Kangaroos' winning streak against the Kiwis to seven matches since the men in black stormed to a 24-0 victory over former Australian coach Bennett's side in the 2005 Tri-Nations final.

Cayless said Kearney and Bennett had already laid down the law to the 24-man squad in recent days as they limbered up with an impressive 56-8 win over Tonga before crossing the Tasman.

With footballing hi-jinks a regular source of news, the Kiwis had set the bar high to ensure no slip-ups off the field as they build to the November 22 final in Brisbane.

"There's a few things we came up with as a group. It's the identity of the team, we want to be seen as a professional team and it's about setting standards for the future," Cayless said.

"Stephen (Kearney) was very disciplined when he was a player, very professional, and he's brought that over to his coaching.

"There's been a bit of a change, but it's a good change.

"It's about being on time, not being disrespectful to your teammates by making them wait, and things like not wearing hats around mealtimes.

"They're little things but it all adds up to us looking like a team and we're all professional and have respect for the people around us."

Cayless said there hadn't been a team alcohol ban, but the responsibility was on the individual.

"We've made it clear we're not here for a holiday. We're here to do something special."

The Kiwis will be better prepared after a fortnight in camp, although key forwards Roy Asotasi (pectoral), Frank Pritchard (shoulder) and rugby code switcher Sonny Bill Williams are big losses from the May Test.

Partially offsetting that is the return of in-form five-eighth Benji Marshall who will partner Thomas Leuluai in the halves.

Cayless said their combination was the most pleasing aspect of the weekend's big practice match win over Tonga, and said Bennett's input could bring the best out of the former whiz kid.

"(Bennett) hasn't had much time to work with Benji but he's a guy that can instil players with a lot of confidence.

"He's shown us why he's been so successful as a coach because he gets players believing in themselves. He's very clear on what he expects, very direct, there's no confusion."

The Kiwis will train at Marshall's Wests Tigers base at former test rugby venue Concord Oval all week, with Kearney scheduled to name his team on Wednesday.

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