Kidwell Coy On Leuluai Replacement
New Zealand coach David Kidwell has decided who will partner Shaun Johnson in the halves for the Four Nations Final against Australia but refused to reveal who.
Veteran playmaker Thomas Leuluai suffered a broken jaw in New Zealand's last start 18-all draw with Scotland leaving Kidwell with a huge vacancy to fill.
Not keen to give the Kangaroos a leg up when it came to disclosing his halves pairing, it is widely believed either back-rower Tohu Harris or 21-year-old rookie Te Maire Martin will don the No. 6 jumper.
They both trained alongside Johnson at the captain's run at Anfield and Kidwell backed his star halfback to shine no matter who he is paired with.
"It doesn't put pressure on anyone. It's a team game," Kidwell said.
"There have been some tough decisions. But they're the right decisions for the team. There's no more chances now. No more time to improve. It's time to win."
While Harris has the inside running for a halves spot, senior New Zealand props Jesse Bromwich and Adam Blair have been impressed by the way Martin has conducted himself the entire tournament.
"Te Maire's been really good. It's been my first time meeting him and already he's a good part of the squad," Bromwich said.
"We have had a few young boys come in and do a great job. They have put up a good fight for the spots in the team."
Blair said the typical nature of the Kiwis has been reflected through the younger members of the squad, which has added to the competitive nature for spots at training.
"They're very humble lads. We won't have a problem having them in the side. We older boys have a responsibility though to lead by example but the younger guys bring a lot of energy to the squad," Blair said.
"Te Maire for example is a young kid with a bright future. Everyone has trained well in camp from day dot to the final."
While Kidwell is hiding some decisions in regards to the make-up of his final 17, he has already made other choices in regards to his 19-man squad for the final.
Veteran duo Jason Nightingale and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves have been overlooked by Kidwell despite having almost 50 Tests between them.
In their place are one-Test players David Fusitu'a, Joe Tapine and James Fisher-Harris in a show of faith from coach Kidwell in the younger cohort.
Skipper Bromwich backed Kidwell's rationale, particularly when it came to picking Fusitu'a over Nightingale, as the Kiwis look to maintain their standing as the No. 1 Test side in the world.
It's likely that one of either Tapine or Fisher-Harris will feature on the Kiwis' interchange among the likes of Martin Taupau, Greg Eastwood and Lewis Brown.
"Nighty's (Nightingale) been good for a long, long time but David adds a lot to the team too. He's very strong, a good finisher and good in the air," Bromwich said.
"No disrespect to Nighty but David has that x-factor."
This article first appeared on NRL.com