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Mannering, new Kiwi Captain



Coach Stephen Kearney says Benji Marshall remains an integral part of New Zealand's bid to retain the rugby league World Cup and his role in guiding the team around the park won't change.
The Wests Tigers five-eighth has been relieved of the Kiwis captaincy, which he has held for a record-equalling 19 Tests, with Warriors skipper Simon Mannering taking over.
Kearney says part of the rationale behind what he describes as an "agonising decision" is to help Marshall be at his play-making best.
"Part of the decision is to try to free him up a bit to be able to do that," he said on Friday.
"That doesn't change. It's trying to get him performing like we all know Benj can."
Kearney said he pondered for some time over the captaincy issue, coming to the conclusion that a change was in the best interests of the Kiwis and Marshall.
"Ultimately I think it will help him moving forward," he said.
"He still remains a very integral part of our team and of our group. He's a member of the senior leadership group and his input is still very much valued."
Kearney admitted he was concerned at Marshall's reaction, but in "a really tough conversation" the pair had, Marshall expressed his commitment to the Kiwis' defence of the World Cup in Britain in October and November.
"In terms of disappointment, he's not going to hide that," he said.
"He's a big lad. He's overcome hurdles before. Very clearly his focus now is on performing well, so we can retain the World Cup."
When looking for a suitable replacement, Kearney said Mannering's name kept coming to mind.
"It was a no-brainer from my point of view," he said.
"He's a well-respected individual in the rugby league community. Every time he plays for the Kiwis, he delivers."
Mannering's first match at the helm will be the Anzac clash with Australia in Canberra on April 19.
The 26-year-old second rower has played 30 Tests, the first in 2006, the year after he made his NRL debut for the Warriors.
He was made skipper of the Auckland-based club before the start of the 2010 season, and led them to the NRL grand final in 2011.
Mannering said he was surprised to get a call from Kearney on Wednesday offering him the job, but had little hesitation in accepting.
He said he had a good relationship with Marshall and didn't expect that change.
"I'm sure he'll still have just as much input as he did as captain," Mannering said.
"You wouldn't want it any other way."
Marshall, 28, first became Test skipper at the last World Cup in Australia in 2008, when tournament skipper Nathan Cayless sat out a pool match against England.
After taking over as regular captain, he went on to lead the Kiwis to further success two years later, when they won the Four Nations title.
When he ran out against Australia in Townsville last October, he matched Gary Freeman's New Zealand record for most Tests as captain. 


Excellent news. I've posted that this should happen a few times over on the International forum.

Benji still has very high kick meters and a huge 36 try assists from last season, but his error rate is in the worst 10% of all NRL players and unacceptable for anyone in a leadership position.

If this move gives Benji a chance to concentrate on improving his game, then he may be able to fend off Kieran Foran from taking over the 5/8th jersey for a wee while longer.

Congratulations to Captain Mannering and a surprisingly good call from Kearney. 

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