Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney says covering the absence of banned hooker Issac Luke in their Four Nations opener against Australia won’t be hard.
New Zealand rugby league coach Stephen Kearney is resigned to being without star hooker Issac Luke for the Kiwis’ opening Four Nations match against Australia later this month.
Luke received a two-match ban for his lifting tackle on Sonny Bill Williams in South Sydney’s 32-22 NRL preliminary final win over the Roosters.
He missed the Rabbitohs 30-6 grand final win over Canterbury, and will sit out the second match of his ban in the Kiwis’ opening Four Nations Test against Australia in Brisbane on October 25.
Kearney named a pared-down 24-strong squad on Tuesday, including four new faces, for the tournament that also involves England and Samoa.
Luke was included in the squad, with Kearney saying he’s confident the Kiwis will have no problem covering his absence.
“That’s the rules. If it was an Australian player, they’d be in the same boat,” he said.
Kearney said the Kiwis had some quality players available in Luke’s absence, pointing to Thomas Leuluai as one option.
“I’m sure we can cover Issac for the first game, and we’ll have him for the remainder of the tournament, which is really important for us.”
Australian coach Tim Sheens, in Wellington as part of preparations for the Four Nations final at Westpac Stadium on November 15, said the situation was a difficult one.
“It’s obviously a harsh punishment to miss a grand final and then a Test match, but I’ll leave that to the powers that be to sort out,” he said.
“This year, they’re being very hard on lifting tackles and other issues in the game. The players are fully aware they’ve got to watch what they do and how they tackle, and of the repercussions that come with it.”