Kiwis tight-lipped over new five-eighth
New Zealand are giving nothing away about the identity of their five-eighth for this weekend's Four Nations final against the Kangaroos, insisting it is a decision for later in the week.
With veteran playmaker Thomas Leuluai ruled out after suffering a broken jaw in the Kiwis' 18-all draw with Scotland last week, coach David Kidwell has a big decision to make in regards to who will partner Shaun Johnson in the halves for the decider at Anfield.
Test rookie Te Maire Martin is one option, given the 21-year-old played five-eighth at NRL level for the Panthers earlier this season, while Melbourne Storm back-rower Tohu Harris also has experience in the No.6 jersey for the Melbourne Storm.
But Kidwell was quick to shut down any questions around his replacement options at the mid-week press conference in Liverpool on Wednesday morning (AEDT).
"Short answer, no [I haven’t decided who will play five-eighth]," Kidwell said.
"We have got a couple of options there and a couple of training sessions coming up, so we will figure it out then.
"Whoever comes in there we will have full confidence to do the job."
The forced change looks set to pile even more pressure onto Johnson, who as it is has shouldered most of the playmaking responsibility for the Kiwis through the 2016 Four Nations campaign.
Both Johnson and Martin were placed off limits to media this week, as the Kiwis do their best to keep their cards close to their chest around selections.
Australia halfback Cooper Cronk backed club teammate Harris to the job if selected at five-eighth, adding that he has proven he can get the job done across multiple positions.
"I am not too sure what the makeup of the New Zealand squad will be, but I know first-hand that Tohu is an elite player no matter what number he has on his jersey," Cronk said.
"We will cater for whatever team New Zealand throw at us."
Meanwhile Leuluai is on the road to recovery after having successful surgery on his jaw injury this week.
The 31-year-old has signed on to play for the Wigan Warriors in the Super League next year, meaning the draw with Scotland may have been his final Test in the black and white jersey.