New Zealand boosted by key returnee for Australia semi-final clash

Michael Maguire New Zealand SWpix Credit: Alamy
Michael Maguire New Zealand SWpix Credit: Alamy

New Zealand will have a near-full squad to pick from for their World Cup semi-final clash against Australia, according to head coach Michael Maguire. 

The 48-year-old watched his side flirt perilously with elimination as the Kiwis came back from behind to beat Fiji 24-18.  

“It was a close game,” said Maguire. “Full credit to Fiji, they put the pressure on us and I think we probably created a fair bit of pressure on ourselves at times.

“Looking forward to this week. The eyes always been on getting though and getting to the semis. We’re here now and that’s the biggest thing we need to concentrate on.”

New Zealand were behind for most of the game with Fiji and took the lead for the first time in the 72nd minute. 

“They aged me a bit,” added the Kiwis boss. “As I’ve said to the players, we’ve gone through now. We got a fair bit out of that. It wasn’t probably the style of what we wanted to play, but I was pleased they stuck to the plan and that’s what got them through. 

“I said many times throughout the last couple of weeks how tight they are. I think that’s what brought them through. Fiji came at us and they put pressure on. We probably pushed a few passes that we normally wouldn’t push.”

Michael Maguire: We will improve

Despite the result, Maguire admitted his side will need to improve if they are to get one over Australia. 

He said: “We need to be better in areas of our game, you can obviously see that. They (Fiji) jumped at us in the start and we put pressure on ourselves. You can’t do that with the teams we’re playing.

“We will improve. One thing about this group, they’re pretty strong on how they want to go about things. There’s areas of out game… we can’t give away cheap loose balls or errors, or penalties.” 

Key prop set for return for New Zealand

Jared Waerea-Hargreaves missed the game with Fiji but the New Zealand head coach revealed the player could return for the semi-final. 

He added: “We’ll see how he’s travelling through the week. We’ll have to see on that one. 

“When you’ve got players of that quality sitting on the sidelines, it does play a part. Jared’s been very strong in the background. But it’s all about getting your most experienced players out as well. But we’ll be alright, we’ve got a lot of them coming back this week.”

One player who will definitely return is Moses Leota. Maguire said: “He’s ready to go. We’ve pretty much got a full compliment coming back next week. We’ve just got to check on Jared.”

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