Simon Mannering has admitted he has spoken to Stephen Kearney about the captaincy of the Kiwis, which suggests he is a front-runner to replace the dumped Benji Marshall.
The NZRL announced yesterday the axing of Marshall as skipper of the Kiwis, just seven months out from the World Cup, with his replacement being named in Auckland this morning.
Mannering, along with Jeremy Smith, Alex Glenn, Kieran Foran and Adam Blair are seen as the leading contenders for the job.
The Warriors captain said he would never turn down the opportunity to lead his country.
"You wouldn't be saying no, but it's a decision for Stephen to make," Mannering said.
Mannering confirmed that he had spoken to Kearney about the captaincy change.
"I have been talking to Stephen, more on just the change of captain," he said.
Mannering said it had come as a surprise to the Warriors players yesterday to hear the news about Marshall and he felt Kearney would have spent a lot of time mulling over this decision.
" . . . Hopefully he [Marshall] will still play a major role in the Kiwis.
"I know he'll be disappointed because he definitely held the role in high regard and he really enjoyed doing that job.
"From playing alongside Benji he'll want to put his best foot forward and do what's best for the team.
"I enjoyed playing under Benji and he did a great job for the last four years. So I am sure he'll be sad to move on."
Marshall said he was disappointed at being stripped of the New Zealand captaincy, but says the decision will not alter his desire to win the World Cup with the Kiwis at the end of this year.
Marshall, the Wests Tigers five-eighth who helped the Kiwis to a World Cup triumph in 2008, said Kearney told him the decision was made in the best interests of the team.
Marshall said it was a decision "I'm just going to have to live with"."Obviously it's disappointing," he said.
"You wouldn't be human if you didn't feel some sort of disappointment at not being able to captain your country again.
"At the end of the day I'm still an integral part of the New Zealand rugby league team. I've still got a job to do to help in the World Cup. That's not going to change."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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