RLWC 2017 preview: Can New Zealand reclaim the tag of world’s best?

Renegade Roar Guru

By Renegade, Renegade is a Roar Guru

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    Jesse Bromwich and teammate Kevin Proctor are alleged to have purchase cocaine after the Anzac Test (NRL Photos)

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    New Zealand has won every major international rugby league tournament held in the Southern Hemisphere over the last decade. That includes the last time the World Cup was held down under, in 2008, plus the 2010 and 2014 editions of the four nations.

    The Kiwis will no doubt be wanting to continue their streak as they aim to become of world champions for the second time.

    New Zealand Kiwis

    RLIF World Ranking: 2
    Best Result: Champions (2008)
    2013 Finish: Runners-up
    2017 RLWC Odds: $9

    New Zealand is one of three nations that have appeared in every single RLWC.

    It took 13 attempts for the Kiwis to finally be crowned world champions in 2008 and they put in a solid defence of their title in 2013.

    A year after relinquishing their title, they went through the 2014 four nations tournament and defeated Australia in Wellington to claim not only the silverware but also the title of the world’s best team.

    The following year they defeated Australia for the third consecutive time during the 2015 ANZAC Test, shifting the power of the rugby league world.

    A 2-1 series loss to England in 2015 asked some questions before three losses to Australia in 2016, including a thumping in the four nations final, saw the Kiwis lose the number one ranking.

    Over the past decade, New Zealand have been much more competitive during major tournaments than one-off matches, however, the off-field issues stemming from the Jesse Bromwich and Kevin Proctor incident appear to be still having an impact on the team now.

    It’s amazing how fortunes can change in less than 12 months. Just over a year ago New Zealand were ranked the number one team in the World and, all of a sudden, now find themselves under siege in a World Cup on home soil.

    David Kidwell has made a stand of embedding the right ethics and culture into the Kiwi setup and that has led to him foregoing the services of some of his key personnel.

    This sees the co-hosts go into this tournament with their backs against the wall.

    Team Line Up
    1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
    2. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
    3. Gerard Beale
    4. Brad Takairangi
    5. Jordan Rapana
    6. Kodi Nikorima
    7. Shaun Johnson
    8. Martin Taupau
    9. Thomas Leuluai
    10. Adam Blair (c)
    11. Kenny Bromwich
    12. Joseph Tapine
    13. Simon Mannering

    14. Nelson Asofa-Solomona
    15. Russell Packer
    16. Isaac Liu
    17. Danny Levi

    Squad Members: Addin Fonua-Blake, Peta Hiku, Te Maire Martin, Jason Nightingale, Elijah Taylor, Jared Warea-Hargreaves, Dean Whare

    Most of the media focus to date has been on the players that are missing rather than those that form the side, although David Kidwell has still named a strong side that is capable of delivering the big one.

    A lot will rest on the shoulders of established superstars such as Shaun Johnson, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Martin Taupau and Simon Mannering if the Kiwis are to progress far in this tournament.

    Key Player
    Shaun Johnson won’t only be the player to watch as a neutral, he’ll be the player that New Zealand’s hopes hang on.

    The individual brilliance from Johnson can turn games and his performances in the black jersey have been some of the best of his career. Just look back at highlights of both the last RLWC and the 2014 four nations.

    Johnson was the recipient of the Golden Boot as the best player in the world only a few seasons ago and even his harshest critics would agree that, when at his best, he is the most entertaining player in the game.

    Fixtures and Opponents
    All times AEDT

    Opponent Venue Kick-Off
    Samoa Mt Smart Stadium Sat. Oct 28, 6:10pm
    Scotland Christchurch Stadium Sat. Nov 4, 3pm
    Tonga Waikato Stadium, Hamilton Sat. Nov 11, 3pm

    Key Match
    Based on what I’ve written already, the match against Tonga is going to be an unmissable event for sports fans.

    The choices made by certain players as to where their loyalties lie will ensure there is plenty of feeling within both camps. In terms of intensity, you can almost guarantee this will be one of, if not the most, brutal and physical games during the 2017 World Cup.

    Players have let their feelings be known and this match will be the moment to let their action do the talking. The Kiwis will be intent to send out a message however, emotions aside, this match against Tonga may carry even more significance as, depending on other results, it could very well decide who tops Group B.

    If you’re only a casual rugby league fan and planning to watch just a handful of games during this RLWC, make sure this mouth-watering clash is one of them!

    RLWC 2017 Prospects
    David Kidwell has set the standard he expects of those representing New Zealand both on and off the field and it appears the media storm created may have bought the Kiwi squad even closer together.

    They have an undisputed record in tournaments held within the Southern Hemisphere for the past decade which can’t be ignored.

    The Kiwi spirit and mana are likely to be on show during this World Cup and the ‘us against the world’ mentality that appears to be gathering momentum in camp is the perfect platform for a World Cup ambush to replicate the feats of 2008.

    If you could choose from any and every NRL player in the competition, who would you pick in your rugby league dream team? Let us know with our team picker right here, and be sure to share it with all your league-loving mates.

    Have Your Say

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    The Crowd Says (32)

    • October 27th 2017 @ 6:52am
      Simoc said | October 27th 2017 @ 6:52am | ! Report

      NZ have the worst coach of the modern era and it seems players don’t want to play for him. Australia has the best coach and the players in his teams always perform. There is a gulf between their abilities. I expect England will comfortably beat NZ this time around.

      • October 27th 2017 @ 9:31am
        E-Meter said | October 27th 2017 @ 9:31am | ! Report

        Agree. Said it before, Kidwell is not a coach’s clipboard.

        • Roar Guru

          October 28th 2017 @ 9:53am
          Renegade said | October 28th 2017 @ 9:53am | ! Report

          Can’t disagree on Kidwell but the players are playing for a World Cup on home soil… you’d think it would mean something to them.

    • October 27th 2017 @ 7:16am
      Not so super said | October 27th 2017 @ 7:16am | ! Report

      How does JWH not get a start? Too many hyphens already?

      • Roar Guru

        October 27th 2017 @ 7:30am
        Riley Pettigrew said | October 27th 2017 @ 7:30am | ! Report

        Have you seen him play for New Zealand the last couple of years? It’s a marvel he was even selected. Hasn’t done much other than give up penalties. He’s good for the Roosters but shouldn’t be anywhere near the Kiwis team, same goes for SKD.

        • October 27th 2017 @ 5:47pm
          Oingo Boingo said | October 27th 2017 @ 5:47pm | ! Report

          I think JWH ran 60 metres against the Cowboys in his last game , after gobbling off that he was going to dominate the Cowboys forwards .
          That along with the fact that he can be relied on to give the opposition at least two or three penalties per game , may give you an idea why he’s going to be watching this game from the sidelines.

          • Roar Guru

            October 28th 2017 @ 9:54am
            Renegade said | October 28th 2017 @ 9:54am | ! Report

            Haha and OB is a roosters fan… I’m shocked Hargreaves made the squad this time!

      • October 27th 2017 @ 6:21pm
        Alex L said | October 27th 2017 @ 6:21pm | ! Report

        Because he isn’t a very good player?

    • Roar Guru

      October 27th 2017 @ 7:28am
      Riley Pettigrew said | October 27th 2017 @ 7:28am | ! Report

      I don’t have too much faith in the Kiwis but still see them topping Group B. Kidwell needs something special to keep his job. This Saturday night is going to be a massive test for New Zealand, a win is a must if they want to come close to the final.

      • Roar Guru

        October 28th 2017 @ 9:55am
        Renegade said | October 28th 2017 @ 9:55am | ! Report

        They could end up finishing anywhere in pool B, but history shows they’ve performed better at the big tournaments.

    • October 27th 2017 @ 8:29am
      Fox Lvy said | October 27th 2017 @ 8:29am | ! Report

      their time is over..

    • Roar Guru

      October 27th 2017 @ 9:47am
      Sleiman Azizi said | October 27th 2017 @ 9:47am | ! Report

      New Zealand still have the talent.

      And Kidwell, whom most haven’t been too impressed with to date, seems to be trying to find his own identity as a coach during the lead up to this World Cup.

      I’m not sure whether his approach will work or not, but the Kiwis still have the talent so who knows how it will all turn out.

      • October 27th 2017 @ 10:05am
        scrum said | October 27th 2017 @ 10:05am | ! Report

        So do the Warriors have the talent! Culture seems to be an inbred problem.

        • Roar Guru

          October 28th 2017 @ 9:57am
          Renegade said | October 28th 2017 @ 9:57am | ! Report

          Agree with you scrum…. there wasn’t a more disappointing and underachieving side than the warriors this year.

    • October 27th 2017 @ 10:03am
      Jacko said | October 27th 2017 @ 10:03am | ! Report

      We havnt got a hope…..Kidwell couldnt coach his bum to point towards the ground and if we are back to Leuleui as the hooker then its all a big joke…….Does this clown even watch the NRL to pick players from or is he throwing darts at an ex players board….Dropping 2 players for something the NRL didnt even punish them for is a massive mistake and there is ZERO respect for Kidwell from his players….The simple fact that a game against Tonga is being talked as a group decider shows how bad this current coaching and administration of NZ league has got…Kearney was a big big mistake…Kidwell makes Kearney look like a great choice

      • Roar Guru

        October 27th 2017 @ 10:21am
        Sleiman Azizi said | October 27th 2017 @ 10:21am | ! Report

        Obviously I’m not privy to what is happening internally with New Zealand but I don’t understand why people think Kearney was a mistake.

        During his reign New Zealand won a World Cup and every international tournament available for them and along the way became world number one.

        Cameron Smith even said that Australia and New Zealand were now equals and that was how people should view them.

        So I don’t really understand the ‘hate’ for Kearney.

        • October 27th 2017 @ 10:49am
          Aem said | October 27th 2017 @ 10:49am | ! Report

          Everything Kearney won, he had an actually good coach beside him as a ‘mentor’ (Bennett or Cleary).

          Watching the recently released RLWC’08 documentary on the Kiwis win, it’s quite clear who the biggest influence was on the coaching staff – and it wasn’t supposed head coach.

          He made a bunch of bad decisions when left to his own accord (selections in particular… some absolute stinkers there – anyone remember the Lolohea/Hiku halves combination that Kearney threw away a tour on? Or the Kenny Bromwich at hooker fiasco?), and has confirmed the suspicions of his ability at club level (at 2 clubs now) where he just isn’t up to the job.

          Better than Kidwell? Sure (better provided for with backup, anyway). But that’s a stunningly low standard…

          • Roar Guru

            October 27th 2017 @ 11:05am
            Sleiman Azizi said | October 27th 2017 @ 11:05am | ! Report

            I suppose.

            Anyone coaching Parramatta until this year was in no man’s land. As for the Warriors, hasn’t Kearney been trying to change their playing culture?

            If so, one year is far from being enough to judge him.

            Still, I take your point about selections, certainly during the England tour.

            • October 27th 2017 @ 6:19pm
              Aem said | October 27th 2017 @ 6:19pm | ! Report

              In most cases culture is just the buzzword excuse for failure. The Roosters apparently have had a culture problem twice over the last 6 seasons (the two years they went badly), but amazing that culture stuff didn’t pop up when they were winning… lol. Frankly, I don’t buy that ‘culture’ is the issue – straight up incompetence across several areas seems much more likely. Recruitment and retention. Youth systems. Coaching at first grade level. Perhaps even conditioning. Some of these the Warriors look like they are attempting to fix – but leaving Kearney in place is likely going to kneecap their efforts. Perhaps the next coach might inherit a better situation – it won’t matter if he’s not good, though.

              Kearney’s just not a good coach. It was under his reign at Parramatta that the club was driven into the dirt (had only had 1 year missing the finals before he arrived, they had been yoyoing in and out of the top 8 for a few years until Kearney arrived – and he specifically targeted a number of those horrible signings that killed the club’s cap in the short and mid-term), and the way he has run the Warriors team has been disgraceful… nattering on about “I’d bring guys in from reserves if I thought they could make a difference” – while the NRL team careened from loss to loss and the reserves finished 2nd in their comp. Then you consider the way he is demanding a play style that doesn’t suit the players he has… silly stuff.

              On an individual level, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad typifies Kearney’s horrible management at the Warriors… came in and immediately provided danger out wide (7 tries in 7 games, including 4 in his first 3 games), but was dropped as soon as Kata returned, despite Kata costing the Warriors a try per game on defence and generally being underwhelming on attack (not even going into his reluctance to pass…). CNK can’t make a difference? Really?

              Albert Vete is the same… spent most of the year in reserves despite clearly being better than everyone at the club in his position short of Matulino and Gavet (who both missed significant numbers of games through injury). While we’re looking at the props, the Sipley brothers being ignored (and now lost) is an absolute travesty – more so when you look at the alternatives at the club. This isn’t a case of ‘you can’t keep them all’, this is a case of guys the club needed being driven out by incompetence.

              I don’t think you can judge him on the overall results over one year – but you can definitely judge him on how he’s handled any number of individual things within that year – and the cumulative effect of those things… it doesn’t look good. And his past results and actions reinforce that negative judgement, unfortunately…

              • Roar Guru

                October 28th 2017 @ 9:59am
                Renegade said | October 28th 2017 @ 9:59am | ! Report

                Very well thought out and written comment there Aem, hard to argue against too!

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