Kiwis veteran Simon Mannering ruled out of Four Nations, James Fisher-Harris called into squad
It's been a tough initiation for David Kidwell but the new Kiwis coach is confident he can cope with the latest setback.
Just a few days after the Kiwis were blown away by the Kangaroos in Perth, Kidwell was dealt another blow on Tuesday with veteran forward Simon Mannering ruled out of the Four Nations in England.
The 41-test veteran failed to recover from minor knee surgery and has been replaced in the squad by promising Panthers rookie James Fisher-Harris.
While Mannering was replaced as test captain by Jesse Bromwich earlier this month, he remains a hugely influential figure and his withdrawal continues a prolonged absence from the national team.
He played the last of his 41 tests during the 2015 Anzac test and since then New Zealand have struggled for results, losing last year's series in England as well as successive games against the Kangaroos.
But with the likes of Issac Luke (37 test caps), Adam Blair (36), Thomas Leuluai (35) and Jason Nightingale (30) providing support for the new skipper, Kidwell is satisfied that he won't lack for leadership in the UK.
Asked he if was concerned about the Kiwis' recent record without the Warriors workhorse, Kidwell said: "It's not much of a concern for me. I was more concerned about Simon and his health, making sure he's a 100 per cent.
"Simon's going to be sorely missed with all his experience, his leadership, his worth ethic but we've also got four players who have played 30 tests who are quite capable of leading our team."
Mannering did not travel to Perth for the test on Saturday as Kidwell gave him more time to recuperate.
All was going well until the final training session on Sunday when the injury flared up again.
Mannering was advised by his surgeon that the knee wouldn't be 100 per cent for the tournament and after consulting with the Warriors medical staff, Kidwell made the call to leave him at home.
"I wanted to make that decision on what's best for Simon Mannering," he added.
"I gave him that week out of respect for him and what he's done in the jersey. At the end of the day we've all come to a collective decision that Simon won't be coming on tour.
"If he was on track he was definitely coming on tour but there were a few minor hiccups there."
Mannering's injury has opened the door for Fisher-Harris to continue his rapid rise following a breakthrough season with Penrith.
The 20-year-old made his NRL debut in round one and went on to become a regular for the Panthers, playing 23 of a possible 26 games, including two finals appearances.
Kidwell said the former Junior Kiwi was unlucky to miss the original 24-man squad and once Mannering was ruled, it was a simple decision to call up Fisher-Harris.
"It was his first full year of first grade and to play week in, week out like he did is very impressive.
"Just talking to him, he's a very impressive young man, a very proud Kiwi as well so he'll fit into the culture. The way he carries the ball for a 20-year-old, to play first grade like he does is a credit to him."
Fisher-Harris will join the team on Wednesday when they assemble in Auckland before leaving for England.