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Page last updated at 08:37 GMT, Thursday, 13 November 2008

NZ switch Leuluai to hooker role

RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD CUP:
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane Date: Saturday, 15 November Kick-off: 0855 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio 5 Live and Sky Sports 2; Live text commentary on BBC Sport website; Highlights on BBC Sport website, BBC Red Button and BBC One, Saturday 1300 GMT

New Zealand's Thomas Leuluai has come in for criticism during the group stages
Leuluai has admitted he has been short of his best form at the World Cup

New Zealand have made a significant tactical switch for Saturday's World Cup semi-final against England, moving scrum-half Thomas Leuluai to hooker.

Leuluai will swap places with Nathan Fien, who started at hooker in the Kiwis' three group games.

Meanwhile, captain Nathan Cayless, winger Sam Perrett, prop Sam Rapira and second rower Sika Manu return after missing the group game against England.

Simon Mannering replaces the injured Steve Matai at centre.

Mannering has been moved from his regular place in the second row to plug the gap created by Matai's neck injury.

"We've lost Steve which is a blow but Simon gives us a great replacement," said New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney.

"He's such a reliable player, as we've seen throughout this campaign, and again in last week's match against England when he was forced to move to the centres.

606: DEBATE
"We've had plenty of competition for spots and that makes selection interesting but that's a good place to be in. There were some hard choices to make."

One of Kearney's selection dilemmas concerned what to do about Leuluai, who has - by his own admission - experienced a disappointing tournament so far.

Leuluai has experience of playing at hooker with Wigan, and the 23-year-old said he was happy to make the switch in the best interests of the team.

"I played a bit (at hooker) towards the back end of this year and it's not too much different," said Leuluai.

He's got a bit of steel about him and I think he's going to bounce back with a good performance

New Zealand football manager Dean Bell on Thomas Leuluai
"It's the role the coach wants me to do so I'll just go out there and do the best I can."

New Zealand football manager Dean Bell, the former Wigan captain, said Leuluai was eager to make amends for his low-key performances in the tournament to date.

"Thomas was personally disappointed with his game against England in that first half and I know he's in a very determined mood at the moment to try to resurrect a few issues with his own game," said Bell.

"He's got a bit of steel about him and I think he's going to bounce back with a good performance on Saturday."


New Zealand: Lance Hohaia (NZ Warriors), Sam Perrett (Sydney Roosters), Simon Mannering (NZ Warriors), Jerome Ropati (NZ Warriors), Manu Vatuvei (NZ Warriors); Benji Marshall (Wests Tigers), Nathan Fien (NZ Warriors); Nathan Cayless (Parramatta, capt), Thomas Leuluai (Wigan), Adam Blair (Melbourne), Sika Manu (Melbourne), David Fa'alogo (South Sydney), Jeremy Smith (Melbourne). Replacements: Issac Luke (South Sydney), Greg Eastwood (Brisbane), Bronson Harrison (Wests Tigers), Sam Rapira (NZ Warriors).

see also
Jon Wilkin column
13 Nov 08 |  Rugby League
England omit Gardner and McGuire
12 Nov 08 |  Rugby League
Smith loses Aussie referee battle
12 Nov 08 |  Rugby League
England 24-36 New Zealand
08 Nov 08 |  Rugby League
Kiwis find room for improvement
01 Nov 08 |  Rugby League
New Zealand 48-6 Papua New Guinea
01 Nov 08 |  Rugby League
Australia 30-6 New Zealand
26 Oct 08 |  Rugby League
Rugby League World Cup on the BBC
06 Oct 08 |  Rugby League


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