Kearney wants lift in Kiwis' performance - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Kearney wants lift in Kiwis' performance

Robert Lowe 29/10/2010 03:29:40 PM Comments (0)

New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney says his side's inconsistent first-up win over England will ensure they don't take outsiders Papua New Guinea lightly in Saturday night's Four Nations tussle in Rotorua.

The Kiwis are hot favourites to get past the Kumuls with bookmakers either side of the Tasman giving the visitors a start of more than 40 points.

But Kearney said the Kiwis' lacklustre display in downing England 24-10 at Wellington last weekend would ensure there was no complacency in his camp.

"Not after the way we played last week," he said.

"We have certain expectations we have to live up to. That starts with the coach and everyone in the staff and trickles down to the players."

Against England, the Kiwis appeared to be heading for a comfortable victory at 18-0 up early in the second half, only for their opponents to fight back with two quick tries and have a third ruled denied.

"From a defensive point of view, we weren't winning the tackles and that made things tiring and difficult for us," Kearney said of the second half slide.

"England consistently won the play-the-ball on us, so we have highlighted areas we need to improve on."

Kearney has made several changes to his squad, with Sam Perrett coming in for Manu Vatuvei after the big winger's tournament lasted only a few minutes before he suffered a broken arm in the win over England.

Penrith prop Sam Mckendry will make his Test debut, while fellow frontrower Frank-Paul Nuuausala has been elevated from the bench and Sika Manu comes into the second row after sitting out against England.

PNG lost 42-0 to Australia at Parramatta Stadium last weekend, but left an impression on Kearney with their enthusiasm in defence.

He said he had no qualms about key playmaker Benji Marshall being able to handle whatever PNG dished out after Australian skipper Darren Lockyer was targeted by hard-hitting Kumuls centre Emmanuel Yere.

"It doesn't matter who is in front of them, they'll have a go," Kearney said of the Kumuls.

"That's the way they play. I can't put a cage around Benji on the footy field. He's a big lad. He will know how to handle things."

A win will guarantee New Zealand a start in the November 13 final in Brisbane.

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