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Rugby League World Cup Preview: New Zealand

Perennial runner-ups with a point to prove, can New Zealand go all the way?


Squad

Adam Blair (Captain; Brisbane Broncos), Nelson Asofa-Solomona (Melbourne Storm), Gerard Beale (Cronulla Sharks), Kenneath Bromwich (Melbourne Storm), Addin Fonua-Blake (Manly Sea Eagles), Peta Hiku (Warrington Wolves), Shaun Johnson (New Zealand Warriors), Thomas Leuluai (Wigan Warriors), Danny Levi (Newcastle Knights), Isaac Liu (Sydney Roosters), Simon Mannering (New Zealand Warriors), Te Maire Martin (North Queensland Cowboys), Jason Nightingale (St George Illawarra Dragons), Kodi Nikorima (Brisbane Broncos), Russell Packer (St George Illawarra Dragons), Jordan Rapana (Canberra Raiders), Brad Takairangi (Parramatta Eels), Joseph Tapine (Canberra Raiders), Martin Taupau (Manly Sea Eagles), Elijah Taylor (Wests Tigers), Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (New Zealand Warriors), Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Sydney Roosters), Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (Penrith Panthers), Dean Whare (Penrith Panthers).

Coach: David Kidwell

Key players

 Shaun Johnson

The Warriors star halfback will need to step up to the plate for his country in this World Cup if New Zealand are to stand a chance at taking home the trophy. At his best, he is scintillating, but he is often prone to go missing during games. Coach Kidwell will need to be at the top of his game to keep Johnson engaged for the entirety of New Zealand’s campaign.

Simon Mannering

The kiwi and Warriors stalwart is a veteran of 42 Tests for his native New Zealand, and more often than not has been amongst the best players in recent years for New Zealand. Now free of the captaincy, Mannering will be hoping to stack up in defence and showcase the great workhorse he is–and for New Zealand to succeed, they need him to lead from the front.

Fixtures

Saturday 28th of October, 6:10pm AEST – vs. Samoa @ Mt. Smart Stadium, Auckland.

Saturday 4th of November, 3:00pm AEST – vs. Scotland @ Christchurch Stadium, Christchurch.

Saturday 11th of November, 3:00pm AEST – vs. Tonga @ Waikato Stadium, Hamilton.

Strengths

Squad Depth

Despite controversy prior to the final selections of the World Cup squad regarding Jason Taumalolo, New Zealand have compiled a strong squad with great depth in case of any injuries occurring during the World Cup. Players such as Gerard Beale, Kodi Nikorima, Joseph Tapine, and Peta Hiku are all good players in their own right but are likely to be played sparingly, highlighting the quality of New Zealand’s squad.

NRL Experience 

NRL experience may not sound like much, but in the context of a Rugby League World Cup where many players in most other teams don’t have a great deal of experience in Rugby League’s premier competition, the depth of experience in New Zealand’s squad should prove useful in moments of pressure.

Weaknesses

Discipline



Discipline seems to be a problem which plagues any New Zealand affiliated rugby league team, be it the international team or the Warriors in the NRL. Shaun Johnson and be it Thomas Leuluai or Kodi Nikorima will need to run a tight and concise ship to guide their big forward pack around the middle. Continuous errors will lead to Simon Mannering and Elijah Taylor being wound down in their workhorse like defence, lessening their much-underrated effectiveness in attack.

Prediction

New Zealand are in a tough pool and will have to play to the best of their ability against competition dark horses Samoa and Tonga. Despite poor recent form and controversy prior to the commencement of the World Cup, New Zealand still has an array of classy and devastating players including Shaun Johnson, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, and Martin Taupau. Any less than reaching the World Cup final should be considered a failure for David Kidwell and his team.

Can the Kiwis cause a huge upset and win the World Cup? Let us know in the comments below.

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Kristopher Wareing

Writes and rambles on about all things involving Rugby League and Cricket.

Rugby League World Cup Preview: New Zealand

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