Secret training boosts Kiwis halves combo
Warriors star Tuimolala Lolohea flew to Sydney for secret training sessions with Kiwis teammates Issac Luke and Peta Hiku during the NRL finals, it can be revealed.
The choice of Hiku as five-eighth for the upcoming series against England only became known to the public last Wednesday when the Manly star was named there for the tour match against Leeds.
But it has now become apparent coach Stephen Kearney decided on his combination long before the tour began.
"Tui came over for a bit, a couple of days, to get with the halves and our spine had a bit of a meeting, just a little bit of a runaround just to visualise what we wanted to do," Hiku told NRL.com in the wake of Friday's tour-opening victory.
"He came over to Sydney where me and Bully (Luke) were and we were going through a little training session, just the three of us.
"It was just a random park, a footy field there, I actually don't remember where it was.
"It was good. We stuck to simple structures.
"Knowing then was better for me than only knowing last minute, only knowing the week before. I had a month to prepare."
Hiku was not completely happy with his performance in the unfamiliar pivot role on Friday but said his teammates had given him the confidence to take his time in becoming accustomed to it.
"When I first found out it was a bit nerves-racking but as I went along all the boys helped me out," he said.
"With the boys' help, it calmed me down quite a lot, I was actually looking forward to playing six.
"The start (against Leeds) wasn't what we wanted but I enjoyed being our there with the boys and I'm looking forward to doing it again.
"It took me a while to get used to it. As Mooks (Kearney) said, play my own game and 'get used to it, don't over-think everything and stick to structure'."
But while Hiku has a clear advantage over selection rivals Kodi Nikorima and Tohu Harris to hold the five-eighth spot, he knows there are no guarantees if results start going against the tourists.
"I suppose Mooks can change his mind at any time," Hiku said. "He hasn't spoken about next week so I'm fully confident I'll be there next week and run out with the boys against England."
England had a quiet day on Sunday after their record 84-4 win over France, when New Zealand settled into their training camp base in the south of France.
The Kiwis will monitor the fitness of Adam Blair (calf) and Jordan Kahu (groin) over the coming days