RUGBY LEAGUE: New Zealand coach David Kidwell is bullish. He's backing his team to play the game of their lives on Monday (12.30am AEST) in the Four Nations final in Liverpool, and denies that there are any attitude issues with the New Zealand camp.
In the wake of last week's shock 18-18 draw with Scotland, many observers have questioned the team's attitude and application, as they were out-enthused by the home side.
Asked if there was an attitude or culture problem within the camp, Kidwell was blunt.
"No,” he said. "You need to understand that touring is tough. You are in each other's pocket for four to five weeks, away from family, kids, partners ... it's tough. But we have one more week to really make our country proud of us.
"We have moved on from (the Scotland game). We have to have the right attitude for Sunday. The attitude that we have had since the game (on Saturday), it's been really positive.
"(Now) we get an opportunity to not only make our family proud but our country, the adversity that they are going through has affected everyone. We have a little bit of an opportunity to give them something back.”
The Kiwis are rank outsiders for the match, after having lost the last three trans-Tasman encounters (16-0, 26-6 and 14-8) in fairly comprehensive fashion.
To add to the task, they are facing a Kangaroos side that has improved significantly with every match in this tournament, and is a few notches above its performance in the trans-Tasman Test in Perth last month.
"We need to put out the best 80 minutes of the tournament together on Sunday,” Kidwell said. "We are playing against an Australian team that have beaten us the last few times but I have full confidence in this team, they will be prepared and committed.”
When asked what gave him confidence that the Kiwis could perform, Kidwell was scant on specifics but preferred to take a holistic view.
"We have confidence in our own ability, our own style that we play,” he said. "The way we have worked hard to commit to stuff, how tight our group is. That gives you confidence. It's our preparation and the spirit that's in the group.”
The rookie head coach has a big decision to make later in the week, as he decides who will replace Thomas Leuluai in the No.6 jersey. Tohu Harris and Te Maire Martin would appear to be the two contenders, though Jordan Kahu could also fill the role.
"We are going to play around with a few combinations,” Kidwell said. "That is what training is for. We have got a couple of options but we have to make the right option. Hindsight is a lovely thing but whoever we have in there we will have full confidence they can get the job done.”
The Kiwis have travelled down the M62 from Manchester to Liverpool, where they will be based for the rest of the week. They have a promotional school visit on Wednesday morning (local time) before an afternoon training session in Wigan.
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.