Amie Lindsell, NRL.com
As New Zealand prepares for arguably one their toughest Four Nations contests so far, a do-or-die clash with England on British soil, they face a threatening omen that surrounds the city of Hull.
Since first visiting the city back in 1926, the Kiwis have never defeated a British national team in the city and on their last tour to the area back in 2007, they were smashed by Great Britain 44-nil.
So is the city a bogey ground for the visitors? Former Kiwi international Nigel Vagana thinks not…
“It’s a whole different team; there are a lot of new players that have come into the team,” Vagana said.
“Benji (Marshall) didn’t play, (Kieran) Foran didn’t play, Kevin Locke didn’t play so there are a lot of guys who don’t know much about the hoodoo.”
None the less it will be a tough game for New Zealand.
Despite a convincing win over Wales last week, the Kiwis couldn’t keep momentum in the second half and to add to concern they were left with a weakened forward pack.
Prop Sam McKendry saw the end to his Four Nations tour suffering a broken jaw whilst Fuifui Moimoi left the match after just six minutes, and is still in doubt for England with a re-occurring ankle injury.
“With him out (Sam McKendry) and maybe Fui, it’s a big loss if we lose two front rowers on tour,” Vagana said.
“It’s time for Russell Packer to step up. He played well in Newcastle. He didn’t get a run last week but hopefully he can get back out there and do some damage.”
However, the key may lie in Thomas Leuluai.
All of New Zealand’s seven tries last week against Wales came while Leuluai was on field but the scoring stopped when he went off.
Coach Steven Kearney may have to look at playing the utility for the full 80 minutes this Sunday to keep the Kiwis hopes alive.
“(Steven) Kearney understands what Tommy can offer,” Vagana said.
“He’s been really good for the Kiwi’s the last two or three years, and one of the best when they won the world cup a couple years ago,”
“… and he’s playing at nine, he doesn’t normally play at nine at club land but when he comes into the Kiwis he’s actually a really good option and works well with Nathan Fien.”
England take on New Zealand in Hull for Game 3 of the 2011 Gillette Four Nations series, with the winners heading to Elland Road in Leeds to take on Australia.
Kick-off: 05:00AM November 13 (AEDT).