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NZ's Vatuvei ready for Scotland

Hulking Kiwis winger Manu Vatuvei looks set to line up against Scotland in the Rugby League World Cup quarter-final after coming through a fitness test on a troublesome knee injury.
NZ's Vatuvei ready for Scotland
by AAP

LEEDS, Nov 14 AAP - Hulking Kiwis winger Manu Vatuvei looks set to line up against Scotland in the Rugby League World Cup quarter-final after coming through a fitness test on a troublesome knee injury.

Vatuvei completed the captain's run on Friday (AEDT) unscathed, although he was left icing his knee during the closing stages of the session.

Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney is cautiously optimistic Vatuvei will be a starter for the defending champions.

"We just need to wait and see, to see how he pulls up from his bump to his knee," he said.

Kearney has confirmed his 17-man squad to take on Scotland after originally naming 19 players, with Sam Kasiano and Jason Nightingale dropping out.

"Sam Kasiano has played in every game so far, he even played in the warm-up game," Kearney said.

"We've worked him pretty hard, maybe that's why his knees are a bit sore, but I'm sure he'll be grateful for the week off."

Kearney has opted for Jesse Bromwich and Ben Matulino as his starting props, with Sam Moa, Jared Waerewa-Hargreaves and Frank-Paul Nu'uausala joining Elijah Taylor on the bench.

He has also elaborated on his decision to start Kevin Locke ahead of Josh Hoffman, saying he needed to give the Warriors fullback another chance to impress after not getting the run of play in his only outing so far against France.

"Eighty per cent of it was me just wanting to make sure that I'm making the right decision, I needed to have another look to see if he could offer the group something," Kearney said.

Kearney said Hoffman could have played with an injection into his shoulder.

"But with two outside backs, plus Thomas Leuluai, going down last week it did throw us out a bit."

Kearney insists he doesn't regard the Scotland game an opportunity to experiment, and has warned his players to prepare for a fired-up Bravehearts side.

"We've done all our experimenting," he said. "I think that would be disrespectful to the Scottish side.

"I've asked the lads to put themselves in their shoes this week and imagine how they'd be feeling and how they'll have been training after they got the result from the Tonga match.

Kearney is well aware of the threat posed by Scotland captain Danny Brough, a team-mate of his when they won the Challenge Cup with Hull in 2005.

"I knew Broughy always had talent," Kearney said. "I could see that from the year that I spent with Hull FC.

"He's a good lad but I'm hoping he doesn't have too good a game tomorrow night."


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