Kiwis rugby league coach Stephen Kearney has ruled out selecting British-based pair Thomas Leuluai and Brent Webb for next week’s trans-Tasman Test. Both returned from England for Kearney’s first match in charge, the centenary test in Sydney a year ago when the Kiwis lost 28-12. After protracted negotiations with their clubs, both were released but Leuluai only flew in on the Tuesday night before the Friday match.
Leuluai started at hooker in the World Cup final-winning team last November while Test regular Webb missed the tournament due to a back injury, but Kearney said it was logistically too difficult to include any British-based players for the rematch in Brisbane on May 8. (quote) At this stage it’s very unlikely they will be selected, after the experience we had last year, that only highlighted how difficult it is. A clash with a Super League round this weekend and a Challenge Cup round the following weekend would also need to be factored in. (end quote)
He spoke to both players this week and told them to aim for the end-of-year quadrangular tournament in England and France, also involving Australia.
(quote)I just told them to keep playing good footy to be in contention. It’ll be good to have players with some experience of the conditions over there. (end quote)
It means Lance Hohaia should wear the fullback’s jersey in Brisbane, as he did in the World Cup final, while Issac Luke and Dene Halatau probably will vie for the starting hooker’s spot, assuming Nathan Fien remaines at halfback.
Kearney will name his team on Sunday at the end of the NRL round, the day before the side assemble in Brisbane.