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The Kiwis' left-edge defence leaked several tries in the Four Nations final.

Most of the narrative surrounding the loss of Thomas Leuluai ahead of the Four Nations final focussed on the impact it would have on New Zealand's attack, but it was on the other side of the ball that the Kiwis really suffered without the veteran five-eighth.

A player long noted for his defensive capabilities, Leuluai's broken jaw suffered in the final pool game of the tournament left New Zealand with a gap which they ultimately failed to plug.

On Monday morning (AEDT) the Kangaroos had a field day down the left corridor Leuluai usually occupies, scoring four tries via Blake Ferguson, Darius Boyd and a double to Josh Dugan.

After the defeat experienced Kiwi forward Greg Eastwood pointed to Leuluai's absence as a leading reason why the men in black and white were so badly exposed on that side of the field.

"I think losing Thomas Leuluai last week was really hard for us, we sort of didn't have a replacement half," Eastwood said.

"Tohu [Harris] went in there and did his best, but losing a halfback the week before a big game is really hard and we all know what Thomas brings to the team.

"Throwing people out of position is never easy and while Tohu is an outstanding defender, playing one position further out defensively is really hard.

"Tommy just brings that experience so people outside of him know what to do, so missing him hurt a bit."


While the change at No.6 was a forced one, coach David Kidwell also opted to bring international rookie David Fusitu'a onto the left flank in the place of 29-Test veteran Jason Nightingale.

That move, coupled with Harris playing out of his usual position, made for a left edge which at times looked disjointed and unprepared for what Australia had to throw at them.

But Kidwell said he had no regrets over his decision to play Harris at standoff, rather than calling up Penrith rookie half Te Maire Martin. 

"Hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn't it?" Kidwell said.

"But at the end of the day [Harris] had been training there really well.

"It was a tough decision out of the two, and we decided to go with some experience there.

"We need to look at ourselves as a whole group and it's not any individual.

"We knew that was going to be tough to cover Thomas."

The defeat in the Four Nations decider will see New Zealand lose their world No.1 ranking and means that they have now lost four straight Tests against the Kangaroos.



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