Kiwi coach angry at suggestions selectors have not taken the game seriously.
New Zealand Rugby League coach Stephen Kearney has lashed out at suggestions his team to take on Australia on Friday night is a joke and lacks the experience to put up a proper fight.
Fans of the game have rolled their eyes at what, on paper, looks to be another easy win for the Kangaroos against the Kiwis, with the New Zealand selectors electing to pick several rookies.
Not only are six players making their international debut, but they have come at the expense of senior players such as Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Sonny Bill Williams and Frank-Paul Nuuausala.
Injuries have also not helped New Zealand’s chances, with Issac Luke, Kieran Foran, Elijah Taylor, Frank Pritchard and Manu Vatuvei all unavailable for selection.
The lop-sided nature of NRL experience and international game-time has led to some pundits saying Kearney and the selectors are disrespecting the clash.
“How would we be disrespecting the game?” Kearney said on Thursday.
“All we have done is go through a selection process; we don’t disrespect our jumper.
“We understand there has been negativity, but we’re getting the chance to go out and play for our country.
“The guys going out there for us will do a wonderful job and play with a great deal of energy.”
Kearney did reveal why so many big names were dropped and it was simply down to form at NRL club level in his eyes.
“When you talk about form, Dean Whare and Roger Tuivasa-Shek were the best right-edged combination in the (World Cup) tournament,” he said.
Jason Nightingale’s form this year has been outstanding and so has Gerard Beale, I can’t pick everyone.”
“No one’s card is marked forever and if Shaun is playing as well later in the year he’ll be involved in the Four Nations.” Waerea-Hargreaves said this week he was upset to not have been told of his omission personally by Kearney.
But the coach said he would get around to speaking to the players left out after the game.
“I will talk to Jared this week as I will a number of other players,” he said.
“If I rang every single player that missed out on a Kiwi jumper my phone bill would be very high.
“We’ve picked a side on form.”