Kiwis' Luke craving 80 minutes in final
Kiwis hooker Issac Luke is desperate to play every minute of the Four Nations final against the Kangaroos at Anfield on Monday morning (AEDT), but admitted that it's unlikely he has done enough to convince coach David Kidwell to allow it.
The veteran rake turned in an 80-minute showing in last weekend's 18-all draw with Scotland in Workington, in a move which was partially forced by five-eighth Thomas Leuluai leaving the field with a broken jaw on 57 minutes.
But Luke told NRL.com this week that he was more than capable of getting through a full match again if required against Australia, although he was conscious of putting the team's needs ahead of his own goals.
"It's never been in doubt for me that I could play 80 minutes at this tournament, it's something I have been working on throughout the whole year," Luke said.
"But if the coaches see that I am being sloppy out there then I told them 'take me off'.
"I was always going to be comfortable with playing 80, I just have to earn the trust from 'Kiddy' (Kidwell) and then go from there.
"In the England game I didn't want to come off the field but we still had 'Lewi' Brown on the bench… he is my roomie, so I had to give him a bit of time.
"I would love to just stay out there, but I am doing what is best for the team If I was looking at this from a personal point of view then I would just stay on the field every time."
While mystery surrounds who will line up at five-eighth for the Kiwis in Leuluai's absence, the re-shuffle is likely to see Luke play an even bigger role in attack for New Zealand against Australia.
Kidwell has named both Te Maire Martin and Tohu Harris in his 19-man squad, with the latter considered the most likely option to start in the No.6 jersey.
Meanwhile veteran forward Adam Blair, who will play his 40th Test in the Four Nations decider, urged his side to start strong against the Kangaroos and break what has become somewhat of a bad habit for the Kiwis in 2016.
New Zealand haven't scored a single try in the opening 20 minutes in any of their five Tests so far this year.
"The start is the biggest factor for us," Blair told NRL.com.
"For any Test match the start is the key part to having a good game.
"We have changed our starting rotation a fair bit through this tournament, it's been a little bit all over the shop from that point of view.
"But come Sunday there can't be any excuses for it, we have to get out of the gates well."