WORLD Cup winner Thomas Leuluai has one eye on the Test series at the end of this season after missing out on the Kiwis’ first game since their stunning Four Nations Final victory against Australia.
The Wigan ace played a key role in helping New Zealand to a competition triumph over Australia at the end of last season, just two years after being involved in their World Cup winning side.
Leuluai was this morning planning to watch Stephen Kearney’s charges in action against the Kangaroos from a TV screen 12,000 miles away. Kearney did not select the 25-year-old because of travel demands – a decision Leuluai himself understands.
But he is hoping to force his way back into the picture by the time the squad is selected for the end-of-season Four Nations, which is likely to feature a double-header opener at Wembley Stadium.
Leuluai said: “It’s a long way to go for a game, I’ve done it before and it’s tough.
“You get there Tuesday and play Friday, and it’s not the ideal preparation for a Test match. They’ve got a lot of talent coming through so it’s not as if they need me.
“It used to be that they didn’t have too much depth in the halves and hooker roles, now they have, but hopefully I’ll still get an opportunity later in the year.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how the new guys go against the Aussies and hopefully looking towards playing alongside them at the end of the year.
“But I’m certainly not taking my position for granted, you always worry about your place in an international team.
“I’m not thinking that I’ve already got a spot, I know I have to play well for Wigan to get those chances.” Leuluai, meanwhile, dismissed reports that surfaced Down Under that he is angling for a return to the NRL with Souths.
“I don’t know anything about that, I’m under contract here until the end of next year and I’m enjoying my footy,” he said.
It follows reports that Ryan Hoffman, Brett Finch and Pat Richards were wanted by Rabbitohs.
But chief executive Shane Richardson said their focus was not on signing Super League players.
Richards is expected to sign an extension at Wigan.
l Tomkins faces fitness battle – page 38