Coach probes NZ game ahead of Cup final - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Coach probes NZ game ahead of Cup final

By Laine Clark 16/11/2008 03:05:41 PM Comments (0)

Judging by the look on New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney's face, the rookie mentor needs all the help he can get before the Rugby League World Cup final.

Which makes former New Zealand skipper Matthew Ridge's claim that six-time premiership winning coach Wayne Bennett should be dumped from Kearney's support staff all the more surprising.

Ridge said he found it "unsettling" that an Australian was assisting a Kiwi national coach and believed the time was right for Kearney to stand on his own two feet.

But Kearney looked like a man searching for answers after New Zealand booked a third World Cup final appearance with a 32-22 win over England at Brisbane on Saturday night.

The clumsy manner of their 10-point victory over a mistake riddled England clearly alarmed Kearney leading into next Saturday night's tournament decider at Brisbane.

Asked what areas of their game he was disappointed with, Kearney said: "How big is your (note) pad?"

The other semi-final is yet to be played - but only the brave or foolish would bet against Australia brushing aside Fiji's challenge at Sydney on Sunday night.

"It's a wonderful achievement to be able to contest next week's final but I was disappointed with a few aspects of our game," Kearney said.

"For 30 minutes of that first half, we showed what we're capable of and for the remainder of the match we just drifted in and out.

"That's not going to be good enough next week.

"You've got to get a lot of things right on the day to be very competitive against Australia and sometimes you need a bit of luck too.

"I don't need to tell you what we're up against."

But Ridge was adamant Bennett should be replaced on the coaching staff by Tony Iro and Kearney was the man to take total control of the New Zealand reins.

"Regardless of where the Kiwis finish at this World Cup, the time has come for Wayne Bennett and the side to part ways," Ridge wrote in his column for Auckland's Sunday News newspaper.

"I'm the first to wax lyrical about Bennett's coaching credentials and his ability to motivate players.

"But ... Bennett is not the coach of the Kiwis and it's time for Stephen Kearney to stand on his own two feet."

Bennett answered an SOS from the NZRL to mentor Kearney after a player mutiny ended former Kiwi coach Gary Kemble's short and disastrous reign.

And Kearney looked like a man who needed all the wisdom the former Broncos coach could offer in the World Cup final countdown.

The Kiwis have lost their last eight games against Australia, including a 30-6 defeat in the Cup opener.

Kiwi skipper Nathan Cayless said his message to his troops would be simple.

"Just getting out there and giving it everything," he said.

Kearney remained tight lipped on the chances of Manly centre Steve Matai returning from injury.

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