NZ's Matai accepts one-week RLWC ban - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

NZ's Matai accepts one-week RLWC ban

By Steve Jancetic 27/10/2008 06:35:57 PM Comments (0)

Steve Matai is a definite non-starter but there are also question marks over halfback Thomas Leuluai's involvement in New Zealand's must-win World Cup match against Papua New Guinea on Saturday.

Matai pleaded guilty to a careless high tackle charge for his 13th minute hit on Kangaroos lock Paul Gallen on Sunday night, the Manly centre to miss the PNG clash on the Gold Coast as a result.

The Kiwis decided against contesting the charge at a hearing of the International Federation Disciplinary Panel, with the ban at least giving Matai a chance to get over thumb and shoulder injuries suffered in Sunday night's disappointing 30-6 loss to the tournament favourites.

Gallen for one was happy to leave the incident on the field, despite being floored by the hit.

"I've been in his position before and I honestly believe he didn't do it intentionally, I know I've never meant to hit anyone in the head on purpose," Gallen said.

"I just think it's something that happens in footy ... it's a Test match you know."

New Zealand wasted little time in putting the defeat behind them as they made their way to the Gold Coast, the Kiwis knowing a win over the Kumuls is essential if they are to advance in the tournament.

Given the desperation of the situation it remains to be seen if coach Stephen Kearney will keep faith with Leuluai, who struggled to make any impact with a limp effort on Sunday night.

"I don't think Thomas was out there by himself," Kearney said.

"We had 17 guys trying to do the same thing in terms of helping the side go forward.

"I don't think Thomas is to blame for that."

There have been calls for Benji Marshall, who himself had a quiet game, to be moved to No.7 with either Setaimata Sa, Jerome Ropati or Lance Hohaia to play at five-eighth.

Leuluai seemed content to simply catch and pass against the Kangaroos, while he also came up with several costly errors in defence.

"I put my hand up, I was pretty bad," Leuluai said.

"I missed a few tackles. Everyone's going to have stuff to work on, but I thought I was pretty poor."

Matai's ban may end up saving Leuluai with Sa - who played at centre in May's Centenary Test against Australia - set to come into calculations for a starting berth in the three-quarters rather than at No.6.

Other contenders to replace Matai include Parramatta youngster Krisnan Inu, Warriors backrower Simon Mannering or Sydney Roosters utility Sam Perrett.

But no matter who comes into the side for the match with the Kumuls, captain Nathan Cayless said every player would have to lift.

"We know what areas we need to improve on and we need to improve on those very quickly," Cayless said.

"We've got a lot of work to do but we know we can play better footy than that."

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