RLWC: Vatuvei back for Kiwis

Vodafone Warriors winger Manu Vatuvei (pictured) is among the players returning for the Kiwis' final Rugby League World Cup group match against Papua New Guinea at Headingley in Leeds on Saturday morning (NZT). Photo: Photosport


Vatuvei picked up an ankle injury when he picked up three tries in the opening match against Toa Samoa in Warrington on October 27 and was rested for last Saturday's encounter with France.


The 27-year-old goes into the match with 16 tries in 21 Tests and 19 tries in 20 games this season for both the Vodafone Warriors and the Kiwis.


Also back in the Kiwi side this week are fullback Josh Hoffman, centre Dean Whare, props Jesse Bromwich and Sam Moa and second rower Sonny Bill Williams.


Kieran Foran will captain his country for just the second time, and for the first time in this Rugby League World Cup.


With Simon Mannering, the Kiwis regular skipper, being rested for this match, Foran will assume the duties he held mid-season in Canberra against the Kangaroos, when injury ruled Mannering out.


Particularly with the backs and edge forwards - in the sense of Alex Glenn and Sonny Bill Williams - it was a matter of getting consistency of who guys are playing alongside now, said coach Stephen Kearney.


I think thats important, keeping in mind whats ahead for us. That was the idea behind having the likes of Dean Whare and Manu Vatuvei back in there.


With the forwards, with Jesse Bromwich and Sam Moa not playing last week, it was an opportunity to give them a game. And were giving guys like Simon Mannering and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves a rest."


Another of the big forwards Frank Pritchard will have a week off to get over a couple of minor knocks from the match against France.


Frank has a cork above his knee and a bit of a sore ankle. There was a short period of time from the plane trip on Monday to Fridays match and I thought it would be best to give him a break.


Kearney has given every player in his 24-man squad, barring Thomas Leuluai who still has a groin complaint, a run in the tournament. With pool play concluding this week, the pressure is mounting to choose his top side.


Obviously there are some big players such as Simon, Jared and Frank not playing this week, but I couldnt say for certain that this is the side that plays next week with those players Ive just mentioned included," he said.


Right across the whole group, the pressure to perform is there because guys like Jason Nightingale, Kevin Locke and Krisnan Inu are waiting for an opportunity. That pressure is there, even more so, in the forwards. I think thats a real positive for us.


The Papua New Guinea match kicks off at 8pm Friday, November 8 (UK-time), at Headingley Carnegie Stadium, Leeds. The game will be shown live on SKY Sports on Saturday morning (9am NZT).


The full Kiwis team to play Papua New Guinea is:


1JOSH HOFFMAN (Brisbane Broncos), 773, 4

2ROGER TUIVASA-SHECK (Sydney Roosters), 779, 2

3DEAN WHARE (Penrith Panthers), 776, 3

4BRYSON GOODWIN (South Sydney Rabbitohs), 752, 6

5MANU VATUVEI (Vodafone Warriors), 720, 21

6KIERAN FORAN (Manly Sea Eagles), 757, 11

7SHAUN JOHNSON (Vodafone Warriors), 774, 4

8BEN MATULINO (Vodafone Warriors), 756, 15

9ISSAC LUKE (South Sydney Rabbitohs), 749, 25

10JESSE BROMWICH (Melbourne Storm), 775, 4

11ALEX GLENN (Brisbane Broncos), 769, 7

12SONNY BILL WILLIAMS (Sydney Roosters), 706, 8

13ELIJAH TAYLOR (Vodafone Warriors), 770, 6

14SAM MOA (Sydney Roosters), 780, 1

15SAM KASIANO (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), 777, 3

16FRANK-PAUL NUUAUSALA (Sydney Roosters), 754, 11

17GREG EASTWOOD (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), 737, 19

18JASON NIGHTINGALE (St George Illawarra Dragons), 747, 18

19SIMON MANNERING (Vodafone Warriors), 731,32