Kiwis could turn to physical Fusitua for decider
DAVID Fusitua could be a surprise starter for New Zealand in the Four Nations final against Australia on Monday (12.30am AEST).
The Warriors utility is new to the Kiwis environment but has come into contention after a strong debut against Scotland last week.
The 22-year-old scored two tries, ran for more than 200m and showed real strength and intent to carry his opposite number back into the in-goal midway through the first half.
His only blip was being forced over the sideline - after being over-ambitious on a kick return - but otherwise he showed promising signs at Test level.
His inclusion would raise some eyebrows, as Jason Nightingale has been a permanent fixture over the past few years on the left flank, and one of the first picked in most Kiwis squad.
The Dragons winger is one of only four players in the current New Zealand side who have played more than 30 Tests, and he was the leading try scorer (five) in the 2014 Four Nations tournament.
But Nightingale struggled against Scotland last week and also missed the Australia match in Coventry with an ankle injury.
There is also awareness that Fusitua offers a greater physical presence, which is vital against the Kangaroos. Since Mal Meninga and assistant coach Michael Hagan took over the team in May, they have emphasised size among the back five and the likes of Blake Ferguson, Josh Dugan and Greg Inglis have created havoc in this tournament.
Fusitua would also offer more of an aerial threat on attack, and his trademark diving touchdowns are hard to counter.
There is some concern over Jesse Bromwich, and the captain took no part in training on Wednesday. But it was understood to be a precaution after his heavy workload against Scotland (more than 70 minutes), and Bromwich is still expected to start.
There is more doubt over Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, who hasn't played since the England Test in Huddersfield almost three weeks ago due to a knee strain. He trained with the rest of the team on Wednesday but it could be a risk to throw the Roosters prop in after two weeks of inactivity.
After arriving in Liverpool on Tuesday, the Kiwis held their second training session of the week on Wednesday. It took place at the Wigan Warriors training centre, an impressive facility in Orrell (30km outside Liverpool).
Former Warriors player Sam Tomkins was an interested observer, as he completes his injury rehabilitation.
It was an impressive session from the Kiwis, with plenty of intensity and accuracy. While they are being written off on both sides of the Tasman, there appears to be a strong desire in this New Zealand camp to finish off the tour on a high.
They will still be huge outsiders at Anfield, but the game could be closer than a lot of people expect.