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Rusty Kiwis get into gear for Four Nations

NZN 3 days ago Angelo Risso

The cobwebs have been blown out, the reality checks taken onboard, the lessons learned and the off-days endured.

Now the Kiwis are looking to put together a genuine 80-minute Test performance in the Four Nations rugby league series.

New Zealand looked well off their best last weekend as they limped to a 26-6 loss to the Kangaroos in Perth, struggling to get on top of a smaller Australian pack.

Dally M medallist Jason Taumalolo was left to twiddle his thumbs on the bench, while halves Thomas Leuluai and Shaun Johnson failed to make their kicking count.

Yet as the team prepared for their departure to England on Wednesday night, senior players said they remained optimistic for the international campaign.

The side had played poorly against Australia, particularly in the second half, but would rectify their mistakes when it counted on UK soil.

"We just went away from building pressure, we didn't put ourselves in the game and didn't give ourselves a chance," skipper Jesse Bromwich said.

"We couldn't get any work done in the middle."

Veteran five-eighth Leuluai, taking part in possibly his last Test tour as he prepares to return to Super League club Wigan, agreed.

He said the side looked rusty but not impotent.

"Sometimes there's no way around that when you haven't played football in six weeks and go out against a Test team packed with guys of their calibre," Leuluai said.

"The last couple of tries made it feel worse than it was."

Star halfback Johnson has come in for considerable stick for his disjointed playmaking display in Perth, but Leuluai felt he should shoulder some blame too.

Plays were rushed and timing was slightly off in attack.

"I play a big part in that and we weren't good in that facet," Leuluai said.

Storm back rower Kevin Proctor said the side had looked poor in training leading up to the Test but would settle in to their new combinations in the UK.

Taumalolo echoed his teammate's thoughts, saying their defence would fortify with more time together.

"We could hardly get the carry until the 10-minute mark," the 23-year-old said.

"We've got a lot of experienced players to guide us around the park, so I'm keen as much as anyone else to go on tour."

The hard-hitting Cowboys lock defended new coach David Kidwell for leaving him on the bench for most of the second half in Perth, saying it was his call to make.

Kidwell told reporters after the match he'd forgotten about Taumalolo and wouldn't make the mistake again.

"My job is to play the best footy I possibly can and worry about the game, and that's his job," Taumalolo said.

"Kidwell has his own views on the game and he sees where I fit."

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