KIWIS captain Simon Mannering has given his players no room for excuses as they embark on the defence of their rugby league World Cup title.
Despite a distracted build-up around selection with the late inclusion of dual international Sonny Bill Williams, Mannering believes his side is perfectly prepared for the six-week tournament in the United Kingdom and France.
Speaking at the event launch in Manchester, Mannering insists the presence of Williams is a clear help rather than a hindrance.
“He’s a huge asset for the side,” Mannering said.
“He’s great to have in the team, not just for the way he plays but the way he carries himself off the field as well.”
In their only hitout ahead of their opening match against Samoa in Warrington on Sunday, the Kiwis comfortably dispatched the Cook Islands 50-0 in Doncaster.
Hooker Issac Luke played a starring role while the side’s five-strong Sydney Roosters contingent sat it out, including Williams, in the wake of their NRL grand final triumph.
Despite the flattering scoreline, Mannering says they still have plenty of room for improvement.
“It’s given us a start point as a group and something to work on, which is good,” he said.
“We’ll need to be better for the first one against Samoa because we know they will be coming out firing.”
A new haka was also unveiled before the match, which was specifically written for the World Cup and designed to reflect the different backgrounds of the players.
The Kiwis will prepare in Liverpool for a Samoan side who boast a large contingent of NRL players.
Penrith Panthers coach Ivan Cleary, who is assisting Stephen Kearney at the tournament, is scheduled to join the team on Wednesday.
The Kiwis’ other pool games are against France in Avignon on November 1 and Papua New Guinea in Leeds on November 8.