Rugby League World Cup: New Zealand v Papua New Guinea preview
Last Updated: 08/11/13 8:24pm
Thomas Leuluai could be set to make his first appearance at this year's Rugby League World Cup after being drafted into New Zealand's squad for Friday's clash with Papua New Guinea.
The former Wigan scrum-half has been forced to miss the Group B fixtures against Samoa and France due to a groin injury picked up before the tournament got underway.
He was sent scans which cleared him of any major injury at the start of the week and he had his first serious training run at Headingley on Thursday morning.
Having seemingly come through unscathed, Leuluai has now been called in by Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney and looks set to feature, most likely off the bench in a role he has filled regularly on international duty.
"We've had a bit of a think about Tommy's position and we thought it would be best to give him an opportunity to play tomorrow night, given the importance of next week's game."
Kearney on Leuluai
"We've had a bit of a think about Tommy's position and we thought it would be best to give him an opportunity to play tomorrow night, given the importance of next week's game," Kearney said.
"We took a chance on it. We thought if we give him a chance tomorrow night and see how he pulls up, then at least we'll know where we're at."
Leuluai, one of five survivors from New Zealand's triumphant team in 2008, will draw level with rested captain Simon Mannering as the most-capped New Zealander in the squad if he makes his 31st appearance.
Stand-off Kieran Foran will lead the side in Mannering's absence, while prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves has also been rested
Second rower Frank Pritchard has not been considered due to minor knee and ankle injuries but a large crowd will get the chance to see Sonny Bill Williams in action.
The holders are guaranteed a place in the last eight following a pair of comfortable wins but Papua New Guinea need to cause an upset to have any hope of getting out of the group.
Kumuls coach Adrian Lam is looking for his players to regain their pride following disappointing performances so far and insists their next is not a foregone conclusion.
"I know a lot of the press are talking about damage limitation but we haven't given up," Lam said. "Anything can happen in any game.
"They are the world champions, they've stuffed France and Samoa and we're the next in line.
"But we've spoken to the guys about courage, character and pride and we feel we can acquit ourselves with pride. We've questioned the guys' character and we'll see if we get a response."
PNG lost Isreal Eliab and Larsen Marabe to injury in Monday's 38-4 loss at the hands of Samoa and Lam will give debuts to prop Joe Bruno and three-quarter Francis Paniu.
2013 Rugby League World Cup
This years' Rugby League World Cup has been hailed as the greatest of all time by the organisers. Australia claimed their 10th title by beating New Zealand in the final in front of a record attendance.
RFL chief executive Nigel Wood is confident the sport will capitalise on the success of hosting the World Cup.
We take a look back at the highs and occasional low from probably the best World Cup to date.
- Hetherington wants more cups
- Wallace commits to Scotland
- Widdop left gutted by defeat
- Tomkins devastated by defeat
- Burgess defends brother George
- Johnson expresses relief
- Kangaroos leap into final
- Sheens tribute to Civoniceva
- Australia v Fiji: Teams
- Burgess out to deny Williams
- Aussies wary of physical Fiji
- Foran highlights main threats
- Two video refs for World Cup
- Civoniceva gets Wembley buzz
- Fiji too strong for Samoa
- England disappoint McNamara
- England stroll into semis
- Sheens retains Slater hope
- Australia put USA to the sword
- Samoa v Fiji: Teams
- Williams injury played down
- Kiwis stroll into semis
- Sheens: Slater has learned
- Brough set for toughest test
- Scots ready for biggest task
- Kiwis wary of Henderson
- Farah dropped for US clash