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Leuluai warns England will be a threat

Published: 5:34PM Friday October 09, 2009 Source: NZPA

Wigan utility Thomas Leuluai has a warning about the threat England will pose in the inaugural Four Nations rugby league tournament.

England had a disappointing World Cup in Australia last year, beating just Papua New Guinea.

They had 50 points put past them by the Kangaroos before losing twice to eventual champions New Zealand, the second time at the semifinal stage.

Leuluai, a key member of the Kiwis' World Cup triumph, said the English players were still smarting over their poor results in that tournament.

"All year I've been hearing about how disappointed they are and how they should have gone better," he said.

"They have players with a point to prove and they'll be out to make amends. I think they'll be a lot different from the World Cup."

The Four Nations, in England and France, and starts with New Zealand facing Australia in London on October 25 (NZT).

Leuluai said the English would be helped by being at home, where wet weather could be expected to predominate during the course of the competition, which ends with the final in Leeds on November 15.

"They'll suit the conditions over there," he said.

"It's going to be raining and a bit mucky and a bit slow, and they have a real massive pack."

England are under a new coach in Tony Smith and they name their Four Nations squad after this weekend's British Super League grand final between St Helens and defending champions Leeds.

St Helens booked their place by beating Wigan last weekend, a result that led to Leuluai joining the New Zealand camp in Auckland on Wednesday.

The Kiwis have a one-off Test against Tonga in Rotorua next Wednesday, and coach Stephen Kearney asked Leuluai whether he wanted to return or stay in Britain and link up with the Kiwis in London.

"I thought I'd come back instead of sitting back in England doing nothing for two weeks," he said.

"It might be a bit harder on the body, but at least I can be familiar with the boys and learn the patterns."

As with the World Cup, Leuluai is the only British-based player in the New Zealand squad.

At 24, he has 18 caps to his name, having made his test debut as an 18-year-old.

He has been used mostly at halfback by club and country, but has also operated at hooker and five-eighth.

Having started the World Cup at halfback, he ended it as hooker, a position Kearney indicated Leuluai would again be considered for, at least initially.

"I'll be looking at Thomas through the dummy half area," he said.

"It's important for him to get a bit of an opportunity to train in that position."

However, that didn't necessarily mean Nathan Fien, also a hooking option, was set to continue with skipper Benji Marshall as the No 1 pairing in the halves.

"We went into last year's campaign with a certain mindset over who we wanted to play at No 7 and so on, but it ended up changing towards the end of the tournament," Kearney said.

"At this stage, I couldn't put my finger on it. In a week's time, the circumstances could change."