Warriors star Simon Mannering is unavailable for the Four Nations through injury.
Warriors star Simon Mannering is unavailable for the Four Nations through injury. MATT ROBERTS

Kiwis must learn to win without key duo

THE Kiwis have to overcome a significant hoodoo against the Kangaroos this weekend.

A victory in Coventry on Sunday (6am AEST) will book a place in the Four Nations final - but can they defeat Australia without the presence of Simon Mannering and Kieran Foran?

History says it will be difficult.

The last time New Zealand beat Australia without either Mannering or Foran on the field was back in 2005, when the Kiwis recorded a brace of famous wins in the Tri Nations.

Since then, every trans-Tasman victory has included one, or both, of the duo.

Mannering was present for the 2008 World Cup final win in Brisbane, and the Four Nations victory the following year at the same ground. Both players were key architects of the 2014 Four Nations triumph, with Foran particularly outstanding in the 30-12 win at Suncorp Stadium and Mannering a rock throughout the tournament.

The lock and five-eighth were also key figures in arguably New Zealand's best performance this decade, the 26-12 thumping in the 2015 Anzac Test.

The Kiwis' last two defeats, in Newcastle and Perth, coincided with the absence of the pair.

Mannering is an auspicious loss. He is one of the best defenders in the sport, with arms that envelop attackers like an octopus. The Kangaroos are masters at creating holes - better than any other team in the world - but Mannering is pretty good at closing them.

Mannering also has a knack of being where he is needed, and sets the tone with kick chase and cover defence. The Kiwis coped well in his absence in Huddersfield last Sunday, though they were perhaps fortunate that England were profligate with their chances.

With Mannering absent, the other middle players (the props and lock) have to do longer stints, to make up for the defensive capacity that the former captain brings.

Foran has also been vital against Australia in the past. Thomas Leuluai is a more than capable deputy - and an outstanding defender - but Foran is a better foil for Shaun Johnson and has a superior kicking game.

On Wednesday the Kiwis completed a second training session at Manchester City's Etihad Campus, before making the journey south to Birmingham. Jason Nightingale (ankle) appears to be an unlikely starter for the Test in Coventry, though the Dragons winger will be given as much time as possible to prove his fitness.

However, the prognosis around Jared Waerea-Hargreaves is more promising, with the Roosters prop making good progress with his injured knee.

The Kiwis had a day off on Thursday, before the captain's run at Ricoh Arena on Friday.

Michael Burgess is a writer for the New Zealand Herald.

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