Hayne won’t be the only focus for Kiwi playmaker
COWBOYS playmaker Te Maire Martin believes New Zealand can bounce back from their shock World Cup defeat against Tonga, but insists beating Fiji in Saturday’s quarter-final isn’t as simple as upstaging star opposite number Jarryd Hayne.
After overlooking him for the Tonga loss, the Kiwis have recalled Martin at five-eighth in place of Kodi Nikorima for the do-or-die clash in Wellington.
A win would likely set up a five-eighth battle with Cowboys halves partner and Australia playmaker Michael Morgan next week.
But while Martin’s duel with Fiji no. 6 Hayne will be pivotal, the 22-year-old said shutting down the big-name Gold Coast Titan isn’t a one-man job.
Having moved to Townsville mid-season after being unwanted by Penrith, Martin helped guide the Cowboys to the grand final.
He continued his remarkable resurgence by scoring a hat-trick against Scotland in his sole World Cup outing thus far.
“Everyone knows you can’t just focus on him (Hayne), you’ve got to focus on their forwards as well,” Martin said. “Coming from a halves perspective, trying to go forward when your forwards aren’t isn’t too easy.
“He’s got that x-factor and we’ll have to work on him. If he gets one-on-one he’s like Rog (Kiwis fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck) or Shaun (Johnson, Kiwis halfback), he’s going to beat them most of the time.
“The pressure side of everything, you try and take as much as you can out of those (big NRL) games and bring it into the group.”
Martin said watching the loss to Tonga from the stands had allowed him to take note of improvements New Zealand can make to avoid a similar disaster against Fiji.
“I’ve seen what could be done a bit better, we’ve gone through that as a spine this week,” Martin said.
“They’re quite similar to Tonga with some big forwards with footwork who can offload, and some fast outside backs.
“It’s good for the guys who played last week, they know what’s coming.”
While he has established himself as a star for his country, Martin faces a battle to retain a regular first grade spot with the Cowboys next year.
Co-captain Johnathan Thurston made an early return to pre-season training yesterday after shoulder surgery sidelined him for most of 2017. The majority of the squad will be back next week.
The superstar halfback and Morgan have a mortgage on the halves spots and if everyone is fit, Martin looks set to battle Ben Hampton and Josh Chudleigh for the bench utility role.
While Thurston has officially retired from representative football, Martin will be invaluable for the Cowboys when Morgan is on State of Origin duty with Queensland.
RECALL: Te Maire Martin is back for the Kiwis against Fiji.