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3 hours ago - 4 Likes
Kiwi coach Brian McClennan returned fire on claims his debutant wingers would be easy targets in Saturday night's Tri-Nations opener, suggesting Australia's flankers were a weakness for his side to exploit.
McClennan made the bold move on Tuesday of naming inexperienced duo Jake Webster and Manu Vatuvei on the wings for the Telstra Stadium clash, where they will come up against the Australian combo of Matt King and Timana Tahu.
The Kiwi coach said the Kangaroos decision to put specialist centres King and Tahu on the wing could backfire, despite the obvious edge in experience over their Kiwi counterparts.
"Matt King doesn't play too much wing and Timana Tahu's played mostly centre," McClennan said.
"I'd say that Jake and Manu have had the opportunity to catch more high kicks than their two wingers.
"They're not specialists, so we'll be targeting their wings too."
Australian halfback Andrew Johns suggested the Kangaroos would look to exploit their height advantage out wide by putting up plenty of high balls for the Kiwis to defuse.
McClennan countered by saying the Australians could expect just as many bombs in return, as well as a host of low grubbers which could give King and Tahu, who are both relatively tall, plenty of problems.
"They can kick to us, we can kick to them too."
McClennan said he was pleased with how former test skipper Stacey Jones was handling his return to the international arena.
He said Jones' presence in the New Zealand camp was having a positive effect on the rest of the squad, who were all looking forward to having the little general back at the helm.
McClennan said he was looking for the Les Catalans-bound halfback to add a touch of class to the Kiwis play on Saturday night.
"He's got to do the critical plays and turn the sets into something positive," McClennan said.
"He'll bring us the kicking game and pass selection. He's the one that helps make the set a good set.
"We're all really enjoying having Stacey here and most importantly he's having fun. That was a big thing ... for Stacey to be in an environment where he could enjoy himself."
While Nigel Vagana has been selected to partner Jones in the halves, McClennan hinted that fullback Brent Webb would spend more time at five-eighth than the Cronulla centre.
Vagana is set to adopt more of a roaming role for the Kiwis, which should give him greater capacity to utilise his blinding pace and fancy footwork.
The Kiwis will wrap up their preparation with the captain's run at Telstra Stadium today.
More info: www.tri-nations.com.au Discussion: Tri-Nations Forum at http://forums.leagueunlimited.com/forumdisplay.php?f=130