Kearney clarifies Luke's non-selection
Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney has finally clarified that veteran hooker Issac Luke was available for selection and he opted not to pick him following New Zealand's 16-0 Downer Test loss to Australia on Friday night.
Luke told Auckland media in the days prior to the Kiwis being picked for the Trans-Tasman Test that if it were up to him he wouldn't pick himself to play for New Zealand – this despite him co-captaining them during their tour of England late last year.
The 28-year-old Luke said he hadn't lived up to the requirements that were deserving of a Test recall, which Kearney obviously agreed with in the end.
The Kiwis coach also added that Luke never told him not to pick him.
"He was definitely available. Despite what he said the week before, that was his opinion before the team was selected," Kearney said.
"The one thing I want to say about Issac, he's a Kiwi, will always be a Kiwi, he's part of the family. I've got no doubt he'll want to be hungry to get back into a Kiwi jumper.
"That's a positive for everyone, the Warriors and the Kiwis, that when he gets himself back in that position I see it as a real benefit for him."
Usual back-rowers Lewis Brown and debutant Kenny Bromwich shared their time at hooker with mixed results. Kearney however refused to hold them responsible for the Kiwis' misfiring attack.
"For me, the energy of the group has been fantastic. It's been wonderful all week. The two lads we had in at dummy half, I didn't think they let us down at any stage there," Kearney said.
"There was maybe one pass that went to ground but I thought the rest of the time they were fantastic. For me, it wasn't an issue."
Overall Kearney was pleased by the mettle the Kiwis produced, particularly with their second half defence, after being forced into an extra 91 tackles than the Australians.
"I really didn't think the scoreline reflected the effort certainly that our boys put in defence. I was really pleased with how they'd defended, the courage that they showed," Kearney said.
"We just weren't as effective as we would've liked to have been with the football and that was due to Australia defending really well which slowed us up a fair bit.
"In the second half I thought we had a little bit of momentum and we started to put a little bit of a dent in them but we just lacked that nail in the coffin. In terms of effort and courage from the lads – I was really, really pleased."