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New Zealand half Shaun Johnson.

Shaun Johnson believes childhoods spent playing skilful backyard footy will serve New Zealand well at the inaugural World Cup Nines on October 18-19.

The Kiwis are set to be a force at the tournament with the nimble likes of Johnson and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck expected to feature.

Johnson said countless hours of practising side-steps, flick passes and innovative kicks as youngsters will come to the fore in New Zealand's performances at Bankwest Stadium.

"We've got a lot of Kiwi boys that have grown up with this sort of style, playing in the backyard, so I'm sure a few of them will get to express themselves a little more," Johnson told at Fan Fest on Friday.

The Cronulla five-eighth, who was the poster boy for the club-based NRL Nines competition which ran from 2014 to 2017 in Auckland, is hyped for the shorter format's return on a bigger stage.

"The fact this time around we get to play for our countries is probably even more special," the former Warrior said.

"Bankwest Stadium is obviously new, unreal. Hopefully the fans can get in behind it and us players can put on an entertaining style of play for them."

New Zealand have been drawn in Pool A with Australia, Papua New Guinea and the USA and Johnson knows the competition will be fierce.

"There's so many countries that are going to put out formidable sides," Johnson said.

Shaun Johnson shows off his form in front of NBA great Paul Pearce.
Shaun Johnson shows off his form in front of NBA great Paul Pearce. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL photos

"The make-up of the NRL competition these days is so diverse, so countries like Papua New Guinea, Fiji, any of the island countries [will excel]. I'm looking forward to seeing what they can do."

Following on from the Nines, a fit Johnson is all but certain to represent the Kiwis in three end-of-season Tests - one against Australia in Wollongong and two versus Great Britain on home soil.

"It's exciting. Any time we get to play for our country in our own country is a really positive thing for New Zealand," Johnson said.

The 30-Test playmaker starred in a mid-season Oceania Cup match against Tonga, bagging two tries and forming a slick combination with veteran Benji Marshall. 

Johnson said Marshall's influence extends far beyond the field.

"Everyone knows what I think of Benji. Not just the player he is, but the type of person he is and what he brings to a group of players," Johnson said.

"If he's there, it's only going to be of benefit for all of us. I'm looking forward to building on what we did in the middle of the year and hopefully we can pick up another couple of wins."

For ticket and travel packages for the Downer Rugby League World Cup 9s Sydney 2019, head to

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