Rugby League World Cup: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck earns praise of New Zealand captain
Last Updated: 30/11/13 2:00pm
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck: Ready to face Australia
New Zealand captain Simon Mannering says the team have been buoyed by the news that star wing Roger Tuivasa-Sheck will be fit to face Australia in Saturday's World Cup final.
The 20-year-old contributed two well-taken tries to the titanic 20-18 semi-final win over England at Wembley last weekend - but sustained a knock which threatened to keep him out of the clash with the Kangaroos.
"He's probably been our best player throughout the tournament," Mannering said ahead of the final hurdle of their title defence.
"It's his first Kiwi tour, his second year in the NRL and to be named the best winger in the world is pretty special for a 20-year-old.
"He's such a level-headed kid and a good guy and he's playing some outstanding football.
"It's a massive boost for the team knowing he's going to be out there."
The Kiwis' other first-choice winger, Manu Vatuvei, was also passed fit after missing the semi-final with a groin injury.
"They both came through really well," said assistant coach Ivan Cleary. "We anticipated that they would but you want to make sure they are both 100 per cent and they are."
As underdogs, the Kiwis are expected to receive the backing of the majority of 74,000 capacity crowd at Old Trafford, which will be a new experience for them.
"That will be nice actually," Mannering said. "We haven't had a lot of support from the English throughout the tournament but that's understandable given the teams we've been playing.
"It's the first time for a lot of the guys and it's a pretty cool ground.
"It will probably be the only chance a lot of us get to play here. It was pretty special to have a training run there, although I'm sure it will be a bit different tomorrow with 75,000 there.
"It is a big occasion. You've got to try not to get too over-awed by it all and keep your mind on the job.
"Just from the feeling at training, I know the guys are ready for it. We have to make sure we have to use that emotion and energy the right way tomorrow."
Full-back Billy Slater is expected to return from injury for Australia, with Greg Inglis reverting to centre, but Cleary says the Kiwis have made contingencies for both situations.
"It doesn't change a lot," Cleary added. "The Australian side is such a powerful unit with so many good players in there, basically we have to play our own game as good as we can.
"We've made adjustments for whoever plays full-back."