30 Oct 2019

Axed Johnson not 'banished' from Kiwis

4:25 pm on 30 October 2019

Dropped Kiwis playmaker Shaun Johnson's international rugby league career could still be revived.

Shaun Johnson and Benji Marshall looking dejected.

Shaun Johnson and Benji Marshall after the loss to the Kangaroos. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Johnson has been a regular in the Kiwis side since 2013, but the 29-year-old has been left out of the side named to face the Great Britain Lions on Saturday.

However, Kiwis assistant coach Ben Gardiner is leaving the door open for Johnson to make a return.

Gardiner said Johnson took accountability for his performance in the Kiwis big loss against the Kangaroos in the Oceania Cup and expected him to bounce back.

"At this level footy is about performance and last week unfortunately Shaun didn't do everything that he is required to do," Gardiner said.

"He's definitely not banished or anything like that ... after this week's game we will see what happens and go forward from there."

Johnson took the news of his axing "pretty hard at first", according to Gardiner, but the assistant coach was pleased with Johnson's attitude around training this week.

"One thing with Shaun is he is full of energy and he is really happy to be amongst the group."

Johnson has been replaced in the line-up by Kieran Foran who returns to the New Zealand team for the first time since May 2017.

Foran debuted for the Kiwis 10 years ago and Gardiner said the Canterbury-Bankstown play maker was "buzzing" to be back in the international fold.

"He's had his issues away from footy and he has been able to get back here and put his best foot forward, it's a super story for him," Gardiner said.

The Kiwis coaches have said their side need to be better this week in front of the home fans.

"At this level of the game everyone knows how to do everything but it is a matter of doing it together and making sure that they're doing it at the same time and thinking the same thing at the same time and we've worked hard at getting everyone on the same page this week," Gardiner said.

This Saturday's match at Eden Park will be the Kiwis' first against the Great Britain Lions since 2007.