Kiwi coach Stephen Kearney has opted to make Vodafone Warrior-in-waiting Issac Luke and Brisbane’s Adam Blair co-captains to stand in for the unavailable Simon Mannering on the coming four-match England tour.
The 28-year-old Luke and 29-year-old Blair are the most experienced Test players available to Kearney for the tour with 41-Test veteran Mannering ruled out this week.
Luke has played 33 Tests and Blair 31; Luke boasts 188 NRL career games and Blair 215.
While naming them as co-captains Kearney confirmed today that Mannering would retain the role when he returned to the side.
Blair (Kiwi #732) debuted for New Zealand at the 2006 Tri-Nations and scored the final try in the Kiwis’ 2008 World Cup final victory over Australia. He returned to the national side last year after a three-year absence, and was a key contributor to Four Nations success and for his Brisbane Broncos club en route to this year’s NRL grand final.
“I think, in big games, he has delivered for us before,” said Kearney, who works daily with Blair as Brisbane Broncos assistant coach.
“He’s been in the programme for quite some time and knows what’s expected. I see it as a natural choice.”
Luke (Kiwi #749) made his debut in the 2008 Anzac Test and then came off the bench for the World Cup triumph later that year.
He was a driving force in South Sydney’s 2014 premiership-winning campaign, although he missed the grand final through suspension, and then led the Rabbitohs to victory at the 2015 Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines.
“Issac is very highly respected within the group and, again, has been part of the programme for a long time,” said Kearney.
“He’s definitely one that’s grown over the course of his Kiwis career, both as a footballer and a leader.”
They will lead a 23-strong group that includes six rookies – utility backs Jordan Kahu and Tuimoala Lolohea, wing Curtis Rona, hooker/half Kodi Nikorima and forwards Isaac Liu and Sio Siua Taukeiaho.
.@issacluke_14 Congratulations little brother. You are a great student of the game, time to teach what you know. Lead by example.— Russell Crowe (@russellcrowe) October 8, 2015
The England tour itinerary is:
Friday, October 23 | Leeds Rhinos, Leeds | 8.00am, October 24 NZT
Sunday, November 1 | England, Hull | 6.00am, November 2 NZT
Saturday, November 7 | England, London | 3.30am, November 8 NZT
Saturday, November 14 | England, Wigan | 2.00am, November 15 NZT