Kiwis pecking heels of ruling 'Roos - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Kiwis pecking heels of ruling 'Roos

By Nicky Park 05/10/2010 03:20:50 PM Comments (0)

New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney has refuted suggestions the injury-hit Australians are ripe for the picking, claiming the Kangaroos remain the benchmark heading into rugby league's Four Nations tournament.

Despite unveiling a powerful squad headlined by Wests Tigers dynamo Benji Marshall and three members of St George Illawarra's premiership-winning outfit, Kearney conceded the Australians still held the edge despite being without the likes of Greg Inglis, Johnathan Thurston and Justin Hodges.

Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens claimed his side would have a tougher task on its hands this time around than it did in winning the inaugural tournament last year but Kearney was having none of it.

"I think we are in a healthy position but that's not to say we're there," Kearney said at Tuesday's naming of the 23-man squad.

"We've got to keep working to improve and find ways to get even better.

"Every time you play Australia, for me, nothing changes in terms of the mentality, who they've got in there, who they haven't got in there."

"They're the benchmark and you always know that when you play against them you have to be at your very, very best.

"Sometimes you've got to chuck in a bit of luck and bounce of the ball also.

"They'll be very competitive ... trust me."

While Kearney was happy to talk up Australia's prospects, he declined the opportunity to discuss his proposed move to take up the Parramatta coaching role, claiming his sole focus was on preparing the New Zealand squad.

Joining Dragons representatives Jeremy Smith, Jason Nightingale and Nathan Fien were four players from grand final rivals Sydney Roosters - Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Sam Perrett and Frank-Paul Nuuausala.

For Kenny-Dowall, the representative recall comes three years after his one and only Test back in 2007, while Warriors back-rower Lewis Brown and Brisbane winger Antonio Winterstein are the only uncapped players.

"We've all seen how well he's played this year and the asset that he has is he can play a number of positions," Kearney said of Brown.

"He's a very valuable utility player, he can play as a centre, a wide runner and at pinch he can go in at hooker too.

Injury ruled out Warriors centre Jerome Ropati and Manly's Kieran Foran, while Steve Matai was unavailable due to suspension and Warriors prop Sam Rapira for personal reasons.

Warriors stars Lance Hohaia, Manu Vatuvei and Simon Mannering will all add some experience to the squad.

Brought to you by AAP AAP © 2020 AAP

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