BRISBANE // The Wigan scrum-half Thomas Leuluai will switch to hooker for New Zealand in tomorrow's World Cup semi-final against England. The former New Zealand Warriors and London Broncos half-back has been at number seven in all three of the Kiwis' pool matches, but by his own admission, has experienced a disappointing tournament so far.
Coach Stephen Kearney, who delayed announcing his side until yesterday, switches Leuluai with Nathan Fien, who will partner stand-off Benji Marshall, and recalls four players who were rested for last Saturday's final group match against England. Captain Nathan Cayless, winger Sam Perrett, front row forward Sam Rapira and second rower Sika Manu, who has overcome an eye injury, are all back in action.
Kearney has resisted the temptation to start with back-up hooker Issac Luke after a fine performance in last weekend's 36-24 victory over England. Simon Mannering, who plays his rugby for the Warriors in the second row, will be at centre in place of the injured Steve Matai. "We've lost Steve which is a blow but Simon gives us a great replacement," said Kearney. "He's such a reliable player, as we've seen throughout this campaign, and again in last week's match against England when he was forced to move to the centres.
"We've had plenty of competition for spots and that makes selection interesting but that's a good place to be in. There were some hard choices to make." * PA Sport