1 Nov 2014

Luke's return boosts Kiwis

12:42 pm on 1 November 2014

Bouyed by the return of hooker Isaac Luke, the New Zealand rugby league team will be looking to cement their place at the top of the Four Nations table with a win over Samoa in their second match of the tournament in Whangarei on Saturday.

Luke will play his first game for the Kiwis since the World Cup final last year after missing last weekend's win over Australia while serving a suspension.

Isaac Luke

Isaac Luke Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The Kiwis wing, Manu Vatuvei, says Luke's return has given the side the side a boost.

Vatuvei says Luke's descision making, knowing when to run, hold or pass; backed up by his defence and ability to read the game, has given the Kiwis confidence

The match kicks off at 5 past four.

Vatuvei himself says he's keen on making his mark against Samoa, the veteran wing aware that a good performance could see him back in the starting line-up for the rest of the competition.

Kiwis and Warriors league player Manu Vatuvei.

Kiwis and Warriors league player Manu Vatuvei. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Vatuvei expects to be targeted with high balls by the Samoan kickers in what could be a wet track in Whangarei on Saturday and he's well aware he'll have to focus on defence.

His perceived defensive weakness under the high ball may have been the reason he missed out on selection in Saturday's win over Australia in Brisbane.

Vatuvei says it had been a long season and his body was feeling weary, but a win over Australia was just the kind of motivation he needed ahead of Saturday's match.

He believes Samoa will have taken a lot of confidence from their narrow loss to England last weekend and the Kiwis are expecting a physical encounter

Vatuvei says hooker Issac Luke's presence will help them particularly at creating holes in the Samoan defensive line but also with his defence around the ruck.

Luke and Vatuvei have returned to the Kiwis' starting side named to face Samoa, as the New Zealand selectors made just three changes from the team who upset the Kangaroos in their Four Nations opener in Brisbane.

Dean Whare, Issac Luke and Manu Vatuvei at Kiwis training

Dean Whare, Issac Luke and Manu Vatuvei at Kiwis training Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Hooker Luke returns in place of Thomas Leuluai, after serving a two-game suspension that saw the South Sydney star skip both the upset victory at Suncorp Stadium, as well as the Rabbitohs' win over Penrith in the NRL grand final.

Warriors prop Suaia Matagi is poised to play his first Test for the Kiwis on Saturday, against his old team-mates.

Matagi represented Samoa at last year's Rugby League World Cup and is the only rookie in the playing line-up this week, replacing Greg Eastwood on the bench.

The only other change comes on the wing, where the Warriors' Vatuvei replaces the Dragons' Gerard Beale.

Second rower Bodene Thompson also takes a step closer to his first international outing as 18th man.

The Warriors prop replaces Greg Eastwood on the bench.

1- Peta Hiku

2- Jason Nightingale

3- Dean Whare

4- Shaun Kenny-Dowall

5- Manu Vatuvei

6- Kieran Foran

7- Shaun Johnson

8- Jesse Bromwich

9- Issac Luke

10- Adam Blair

11- Simon Mannering (captain)

12- Kevin Proctor

13- Jason Taumalolo

14- Lewis Brown

15- Suaia Matagi

16- Martin Taupau

17- Tohu Harris

18- Bodene Thompson