NZ No.1 role would be 'tough': RTS
New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney has three options to pick at fullback for the mid-year Test against the Kangaroos on May 2, but here's the catch: only one of them has played there this year – and he does it on a part-time basis.
With the side due to be named on Sunday, Kearney is already without five-eighth Kieran Foran (knee) and hooker Issac Luke (shoulder).
But the fullback spot presents the latest headache for the underdogs, with incumbent fullback Kevin Locke yet to appear in the NRL this season and back-up Josh Hoffman starting the year at five-eighth.
Kearney could opt for rising Roosters talent Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, who has spotted Anthony Minichiello on numerous occasions this year, but the gun winger made the honest admission that the role might be too "tough" for him at this stage of his career.
"That'd be pretty hard. Playing fullback is a big role on the international level," he said to NRL.com. "It'd be a tough one."
However, the 20-year-old might have no choice but to wear the No.1 with Kearney devoid of options, and fellow Kiwi Jared Waerea-Hargreaves believes his clubmmate is ready for the step up.
"I definitely think he can. He wants to play fullback [at the Roosters] and that's his position," Waerea-Hargreaves said.
"He's only playing on the wing because of our skipper who's at fullback. Mince is doing a great job, but once it's time to hang his boots up, Roger's there.
"He's there already. He loves being at the back there, and he's doing a great job there for us. I think he'd do a great job there for the Kiwis."
With Locke just about out of the frame and Hoffman shifting to the halves this season, the Test prop says Tuivasa-Sheck should in fact be Kearney's first choice.
"We all know how good Josh Hoffman is there at fullback, and he's played there and he's had that experience there, but Roger's enthusiastic. He's keen. He's great under the high ball. There's not too many weaknesses about that young kid. He's pretty solid all over the park," he said.
Tuivasa-Sheck, who was named in the squad for the corresponding fixture last year, made his debut in the recent World Cup and played six games before getting injured in the final against Australia.
Club coach Trent Robinson has upped the winger's apprenticeship under Minichiello this year, swapping the two several times during a game – particularly on set plays.
The Samoan-born Tuivasa-Sheck said making the side on the wing was a primary goal for him at the beginning of the season.
"At the start of the year I really wanted to make that Kiwis game, and thought that'd be big for me but at the moment our Roosters team is the main focus, just the way we're going. We haven't reached our peak performance," he said.
"So at the moment, I'm just happy just trying to get these little wins here and hopefully if that Kiwi jumper comes around, I'll be glad to put my hand up."
Roosters centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall, who missed the World Cup with a broken jaw suffered in the Grand Final win, also reminded Kearney of his desire to pull on the black jumper after scoring two tries in Saturday night's win against the Sharks.
Tuivasa-Sheck rated his teammate as the best centre in the nation.
"He was always in the picture, [he was] just unlucky with that jaw injury. I reckon he deserves a spot. Hopefully he gets picked," he said.
"He's my top Kiwi centre I've seen. I really respect him, he's playing really well."