NZ cry­ing out for some real com­pe­ti­tion

Ki­wis’ true worth re­mains a mys­tery un­til they are prop­erly tested in the World Cup.

Sunday News - - NEWS -

ELET’S run through the good bits. It’s heart­en­ing to see emerg­ing New Zealand rugby league stars such as Nel­son Asofa-Solomona, Joseph Tap­ine and Danny Levi back play­ing on home soil. Like so many as­pir­ing NRL play­ers be­fore them, the Welling­ton trio set off for Aus­tralia at a ten­der age and now ap­pear poised for lengthy Ki­wis ca­reers.

At the other end of the spec­trum, vet­eran wing Ja­son Nightin­gale pro­vided yet an­other re­minder of his many qual­i­ties, as New Zealand over­whelmed a hap­less Scot­land side 74-6 in yes­ter­day’s Rugby League World Cup Pool B clash in Christchurch. You don’t imag­ine posters of Nightin­gale adorn many bed­room walls, but the 31-year-old re­mains one of the more ad­mirable and de­pend­able play­ers around.

In be­tween sits some­one such as full­back Roger Tuiv­asa-Sheck. Com­ing home to play for the New Zealand War­riors – where he was soon lum­bered with the cap­taincy – hasn’t seemed to do great things for his game. So it was nice to see him run rings around the Scots at AMI Sta­dium.

In the in­ter­ests of max­imis­ing his po­ten­tial, though, you hope Tuiv­asa-Sheck even­tu­ally heads back to an Aus­tralian club or even turns his at­ten­tion to the All Blacks and a Su­per Rugby fran­chise. Just maybe not the Blues.

For now, his workrate and im­proved ball-play­ing skills ought to be valu­able as­sets for the Ki­wis as this tour­na­ment wears on.

Un­til then, there’s next to noth­ing that we’ve learned about the New Zealand side and what they’re ca­pa­ble of, fol­low­ing their one-sided en­coun­ters with Samoa and Scot­land.

Again, Asofa-Solomona seems to be play­ing with more free­dom – and to greater ef­fect – than he’s al­lowed at the Melbourne Storm. That’s been eye-open­ing.

Be­yond that, though, it’s all been pretty pre­dictable and mean­ing­less stuff, leav­ing a va­ri­ety of unan­swered ques­tions.

Prop Jared WaereaHar­g­reaves has started both games, but not de­liv­ered a lot, and his re­call to the side looks a cou­ple of years late. Next Satur­day against Tonga might be in­ter­est­ing. Waerea-Har­g­reaves called out Tonga’s Ja­son Tau­malolo dur­ing the re­cent NRL fi­nals se­ries and got over-run, so it would be use­ful to see sim­i­lar at Waikato Sta­dium.

Not through any ill-will to­wards Waerea-Har­g­reaves or the Ki­wis, but be­cause a dom­i­nant Tau­malolo dis­play would hope­fully mean a com­pet­i­tive show­ing from the en­tire Tonga team and New Zealand need that.

We’ve quickly reached that point where any­thing that re­veals the true na­ture of Shaun John­son’s form, and who should part­ner him in the halves and start at hooker, or in the cen­tres and at prop, would be help­ful.

Samoa at least of­fered a 40-minute test, in New Zealand’s first match. But Scot­land’s ef­fort was a poor ad­ver­tise­ment for rugby league and the idea that the code can jus­tify world cups.

Let’s hope Tonga can do bet­ter.

Ja­son Nightin­gale of­fers de­pend­abil­ity for the Ki­wis.

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