Joey Manu hopes Kiwis can provide Rugby League breakthrough in New Zealand

Sydney Roosters star Joey Manu says a stellar showing by New Zealand at the World Cup could spark a breakthrough for Rugby League in the country.

With the All Blacks not as dominant as they once were in the 15-side code and the Black Caps on a downward turn on the cricket field, Michael Maguire’s Kiwis have the chance to build on the return home of league flagbearers New Zealand Warriors after a three-year exile due to the pandemic and claim the sporting limelight.

“Rugby union is always pretty dominant in New Zealand, but if we do what we set out to achieve then it will definitely bring a bit of light onto league and where we want the game to head,” said Manu, who has shone in the centres for the Roosters but will play fullback for his national team.

“There’s a lot of talent in New Zealand and a lot of younger kids playing. If we do what we can do, it will make it a lot bigger.”

Speaking on the World Cup Chasers podcast, the 26-year-old, who is confident of recovering from the calf injury which kept him out of the Roosters’ NRL play-off defeat by South Sydney Rabbitohs, said he is looking forward to playing fullback.

“I enjoy it. It’s one of the most dominant roles in the game and you get a lot of touches on the ball. You create plays,” he explained.

“In the Kiwi jersey, it’s pretty special because there are a lot of other good players in the spine and it’s a good team to run on the back of.

“The coach talks about keeping our spine strong. If you look at the other players, with (hooker) Brandon Smith playing around the middle and (halfbacks) Jahrome Hughes and Dylan Brown at the top of their positions this year, I think it’s key.”

New Zealand, who are International Rugby League’s top-ranked team but behind Australia in the eyes of the bookies, face Lebanon, Jamaica and Ireland in Group B and tackle Leeds in a warm-up game at Headingley on Saturday, October 8.

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