'Wiser' Kearney rules out Leuluai, Webb - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

'Wiser' Kearney rules out Leuluai, Webb

By Mark Geenty 29/04/2009 06:06:22 PM Comments (0)

Kiwis rugby league coach Stephen Kearney has ruled out selecting British-based pair Thomas Leuluai and Brent Webb for next week's trans-Tasman Test.

Leuluai started at hooker in the World Cup final-winning team last November while Test regular Webb missed the tournament due to a back injury, but Kearney said it was logistically too difficult to include any British-based players for the rematch in Brisbane on May 8.

"At this stage it's very unlikely they will be selected," Kearney told NZPA.

"After the experience we had last year, that only highlighted how difficult it is. I'm another year wiser, too."

Both returned from England for Kearney's first match in charge, the centenary test in Sydney a year ago, but it was hardly ideal as the Kiwis lost 28-12.

After protracted negotiations with their clubs, both were released but Leuluai only flew in on the Tuesday night before the Friday match.

A clash with a Super League round this weekend and a Challenge Cup round the following weekend would also need to be factored in, Kearney said.

He spoke to both players this week and told them to aim for the end-of-year quadrangular tournament in England and France, also involving Australia.

"I just told them to keep playing good footy to be in contention. It'll be good to have players with some experience of the conditions over there."

It meant Lance Hohaia would likely wear the fullback's jersey in Brisbane, as he did in the World Cup final, while Issac Luke and Dene Halatau would vie for the starting hooker's spot, assuming Nathan Fien remained at halfback.

Kearney will name his team on Sunday at the end of the NRL round, the day before the side assemble in Brisbane.

Warriors prop Sam Rapira (sternum) was the only definite injury scratching at this stage, while Kearney didn't want to tempt fate by commenting on the squad being largely injury-free.

"I don't want to say too much, we've still got one round to get through."

From last year's World Cup-winning side, only Leuluai and captain Nathan Cayless (retired) are definitely out.

Key forwards Roy Asotasi and Frank Pritchard are certainties after injury ruled them out of the World Cup.

Kearney preferred not to name his captain until the team were announced, with Asotasi seemingly the leading contender but Jeremy Smith also in the mix.

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