Kiwis are stronger, not weaker, says Bateman
John Bateman has swept away suggestions England will face a weakened New Zealand side in Saturday's ground-breaking Test in America.
There are seven uncapped players in one of the least-experienced Kiwi squads in recent history.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Shaun Johnson and Adam Blair are among the key players absent either through circumstances or suspension.
But Bateman points to the new coach at the helm – ex-Wigan boss Michael Maguire – as evidence they will be a tougher nut to crack at Denver. “I think if you look at who’s coaching them, and you can’t say they’re weakened, they’ve strengthened,” said the forward, who is set to join Canberra in 2019.
“I wasn’t here when he was but a few of the lads know him and they’ve all said, ‘He’ll have them ready to go’. I think with Madge in charge, it’ll be really tough for us.”
Bateman is one of three Wigan players in the squad, along with Sean O’Loughlin and George Williams, who arrived in Colorado yesterday.
They met up with coach Wayne Bennett as well as the NRL contingent of players.
“It’s a different challenge. I never thought I’d ever go to Denver – I didn’t know where it was,” smiled Bateman.
“It’s really exciting to see the lads again.
“It’s a massive week, I missed the mid-season Test against Samoa last year, so I’m looking forward to being involved.
“I’ve been to Florida to do a pre-season with Wigan but playing a Test there, in front of American fans, will be something else and I can’t wait for it.”
Bateman helped Wigan to a 14-10 win at Hull FC the night before he jetted out.
Shaun Wane’s Warriors travel to Castleford on Friday.