Competition driving Kiwi rakes
Kiwis utility Kodi Nikorima believes competition within New Zealand's dummy-half group is lifting individual players to new levels ahead of the Rugby League World Cup, kicking off this weekend.
With recognised hookers Danny Levi and Thomas Leuluai being joined in camp by the likes of Nikorima and Elijah Taylor, who have both played the role for their clubs in the NRL Telstra Premiership, the race for the New Zealand hooking job is set to be the most contested in recent memory.
While Leuluai's experience at Test level is likely to see him given first shot in the starting No.9 jersey, Nikorima believes 21-year-old Newcastle Knight Danny Levi is a strong contender who is thriving in the environment, where the group was being overseen by vastly experienced assistant coach Brian Smith.
"We have got Danny Levi in, who I thought had a breakout season. Him being here, he's going to benefit a lot from working with Tommy," Nikorima said.
"There are a lot of spots up for grab and from a team point of view, having all these players competing for positions can only make the squad better and the team better.
"I think that competition is all of over the park as well to be honest."
This year Nikorima further enhanced his reputation as one of the game's most versatile players, at times lining up at halfback, fullback and hooker for the Brisbane Broncos.
As the Kiwis build towards their first game of the World Cup against Samoa in Auckland on Saturday, Nikorima has been training all over the park and said he remains unsure of exactly what his role will be.
"There's plenty of players there that can fill positions… I think they see me sort of playing a utility role," Nikorima said.
"If I get the opportunity to play in the halves, that's where I finished off [the NRL season], but then again I was out there training at fullback and did a bit of hooker as well last week.
"He (coach David Kidwell) hasn't spoken to me just yet about what position I will be playing, but I'm open minded.
"When it comes to the Kiwis I am just happy to put a jumper on and be in the 17. No matter what number I have got on my back I'll be going out there and giving it my all."
New Zealand will name their team for the match against Samoa on Tuesday afternoon in Auckland.