Ex-Warrior Leuluai is back on familiar territory

Thomas Leuluai and the rest of the boys celebrate Liam Farrell's winning try over St Helens in 2011
Thomas Leuluai and the rest of the boys celebrate Liam Farrell's winning try over St Helens in 2011
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THOMAS Leuluai admits he’s happy to be back in his second home as the Kiwis prepare to defend their World Cup crown.

The former Wigan and London halfback is back in the country he called home for nine years.

“It’s nice to be back... even if the weather was a bit of a shock,” smiled the 28-year-old, who left a year ago to return to New Zealand Warriors.

“Everyone keeps saying the weather was nice before we got here!

“I had a great time at Wigan and really enjoyed it, but the chance to go back and be close to my family, and the challenge of playing in the NRL again, was one I felt I needed.

“It was tough at first. But I felt I needed it.”

Leuluai, who made 189 appearances for Wigan during six seasons, is the Kiwis’ joint most capped player with 30.

He is also one of a few who played in the team which won the last World Cup in 2008.

“We’ve not really spoken about that,” said Leuluai. “I think Australia are still the favourites.

“I’m not sure what people are talking about, for us it’s about performing to the standards we know we’re capable of.”

“I don’t think we played that well,” said Leuluai.

Hundreds of fans watched the Kiwis’ open training session at St Helens yesterday. They open their World Cup campaign on Sunday against a Harrison Hansen-captained Samoa.

They also face Papua New Guinea and France, with three teams progressing to the knock-out stages.