Rep teams: Kiwis, Lions shake up squads
AS blunt messages go, Kiwi coach Michael Maguire delivered Shaun Johnson a doozy after the playmaker's pedestrian display against Australia in Wollongong.
"Don't play s**t and you stay in the team. Pretty simple really," the mercurial Cronulla halfback recalled of their matter-of-fact review.
Johnson wasn't seeking excuses for a performance in the 26-4 hiding from the Kangaroos which resulted in his dumping for last week's 12-8 win over Great Britain.
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A serious shoulder injury suffered by Kieran Foran at Eden Park resulted in a recall for Johnson for Saturday's second and final Test against the British in Christchurch.
The 29-year-old had soaked up Maguire's criticism and reckoned he responded with one of his best training weeks last week, even though he wasn't playing.
Getting a start in what will be his last game of a roller-coaster season - having left the Warriors for Cronulla and offered only sporadic glimpses of his class - had Johnson determined not to let down his country again.
"We've got certain standards around our footy side and I didn't meet them in the Australia game so I understand that.
"I came out and worked hard last week. You're your own harshest critic. I've got certain standards that I want to play at and that's all I'm looking at doing. I'm sure if I do that, everyone will be happy."
There are two other changes to the Kiwis starting team.
Hooker Brandon Smith returns in place of Kodi Nikorima after being stood down for disciplinary reasons last week while Kenny Bromwich has been demoted to an extended bench while he awaits the birth of his second child in Melbourne. Second-rower Corey Harawira-Naera is set to start in his place.
Meanwhile, Johnson said he was "gutted" for Foran who faces at least six months off after undergoing exploratory surgery on his shoulder.
The long-time Test teammate was one player who didn't warrant that sort of luck after other injuries and personal problems had plagued him in recent years, Johnson said.
"My heart sunk for him. Obviously I've been pretty close with him since we've been playing at the Kiwis and then when he came to the Warriors.
"I've seen the journey Kieran's been on and the amount of resilience he's shown to get to a position to represent his country again.
"A lot of people don't see it and wouldn't understand (but) I'm confident he's going to bounce back. He's in a really good place with his body and mentally."
INJURIES FORCE RESHUFFLE IN GREAT BRITAIN SIDE
Second-rower Jack Hughes is confident he can do a job in a makeshift three-quarter line for the Great Britain rugby league team.
The Warrington forward will make his Lions debut at centre in the second Test against New Zealand in Christchurch on Saturday, with Zak Hardaker switching to the wing in place of the injured Ryan Hall.
The former Leeds winger dislocated his left patella five minutes from the end of Saturday's 12-8 defeat in Auckland and has returned to Sydney to continue his recovery with his club side, the Roosters.
With Wigan centre Oliver Gildart also leaving the tour to continue his treatment for the shoulder he dislocated against Tonga, coach Wayne Bennett has been left without a specialist centre and only one recognised winger but, because of the travel and time constraints, he has decided not to send for a replacement.
Hughes began his career as a centre at Wigan and demonstrated his versatility by playing at five-eighth in his team's Challenge Cup win over St Helens in August.
"Obviously a couple of injuries have tested the depth of the squad and Wayne has asked me to jump in at centre and do a job and I'll do it all the justice I can," Hughes said.
"It's not where I thought I would make my debut but I'm happy to do a job for the team. It's about team first, especially at this level."
Assistant coach Ian Watson does not believe the enforced changes weaken the team as they go in search of a series-levelling win.
"I think Zak will be great for us being out on the edge," Watson said.
"His utility value is massive for us, being able to play centre, fullback and wing."
Britain have received some positive injury news with St Helens prop Luke Thompson recovering from rib cartilage damage he sustained 12 minutes into the opening defeat by Tonga.
He sat out last Saturday's first Test defeat in Auckland but has been named on an extended bench.
NEW ZEALAND v GREAT BRITAIN
Saturday, November 9, Christchurch Stadium at 5pm (AEST).
1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, 2. Ken Maumalo, 3. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, 4. Joseph Manu, 5. Jamayne Isaako, 6. Shaun Johnson, 7. Benji Marshall, 8. Zane Tetevano, 9. Brandon Smith, 10. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, 11. Briton Nikora, 12. Corey Harawira-Naera, 13. Joseph Tapine.
Interchange: 14. Kodi Nikorima, 15. Kevin Proctor, 16. Leeson Ah Mau, 17. Adam Blair,
Reserves: 18. Jahrome Hughes, 19. Braden Hamlin-Uele, 20. Kenny Bromwich, 21. Bailey Simonsson, 21. Isaiah Papali'i
1. Jonny Lomax, 2. Jermaine McGillvary, 3. Jack Hughes, 4. Jake Connor, 5. Zak Hardaker, 6. Gareth Widdop, 7. Jackson Hastings, 8. Chris Hill, 9. Josh Hodgson, 10. Tom Burgess, 11. John Bateman, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. James Graham.
Interchange: 14. Josh Jones, 15. Joe Philbin, 16. Darryl Clark, 17. Alex Walmsley,
Reserves: 18. Blake Austin, 19. George Williams, 20. Luke Thompson, 21. Lachlan Coote.
FIJI v PAPUA NEW GUINEA
Saturday, November 9, Christchurch Stadium at 2.20pm (ASET)
1. Siti Moceidreke, 2. Maika Sivo, 3. Taane Milne, 4. Brayden Wiliame, 5. Suliasi Vunivalu, 6. Kevin Naiqama, 7. Brandon Wakeham, 8. Kane Evans, 9. Joe Lovodua, 10. Tui Kamikamica, 11. Viliame Kikau, 12. Petero Benjamin Nakubuwai, 13. D'Rhys Miller
Interchange: 14. Lamar Liolevave, 15. Joseph Ratuvakacereivalu, 16. King Vuniyayawa, 17. Penioni Tagituimua,
Reserves: 18. Isaac Lumelume
PAPUA NEW GUINEA
1. Alex Johnston, 2. Edene Gebbie, 3. Dan Russell, 4. Justin Olam, 5. Terry Wapi, 6. Kyle Laybutt, 7. Watson Boas, 8. Wellington Albert, 9. Wartovo Puara, 10. Luke Page, 11. Nixon Putt, 12. Rhyse Martin, 13. Moses Meninga
Interchange: 14. Edwin Ipape, 15. Stanton Albert, 16. Enock Maki, 17. Stargroth Amean
Reserves: 18. Garry Lo, 19. Stanford Talita, 20. David Mead