For the first time in his Kiwis test career Kieran Foran occupies his preferred position, and he hopes it coincides with a long overdue quality individual performance in a jersey he feels he has let down.
The classy Manly Sea Eagles five-eighth takes charge of guiding the Kiwis around Canberra Stadium tomorrow night - an assignment he describes as pay back for a sequence of sub par performances as Benji Marshall's deputy.
Foran has already won a Grand Final and is regarded as one of the most talented - and consistent - young halves in the NRL, yet the 22-year-old almost grimaces when assessing his eight-test career.
Admittedly his record since making a Kiwis debut at centre against England in 2009 is unflattering - a solitary win over Wales no consolation for seven defeats to the code's powerhouses.
"I think I've let myself and the Kiwis side down," he confessed as he prepares to step-in for the injured former Kiwis captain.
Foran has generally deferred to Marshall's instructions during the seven internationals they have combined together in the halves, but doesn't believe taking a back seat to the Wests Tigers superstar has had a detrimental effect.
"I don't think so. I've spoken to Steve (Kearney) about it a lot," he said.
"We're both undecided on what factors have caused me to not play at my best in the Kiwi jersey.
"You can say we're playing against a great Aussie side but I know what I'm capable of, I'm a hard marker on myself and I just feel I've never carried my club form into the Kiwis."
Foran said it was obviously easier to thrive at club level where the structures are engrained during the pre-season and finessed on a weekly basis with, in his case, halfback Daly Cherry-Evans.
In contrast the Kiwis have had only on decent hit out since assembling in Canberra and New Zealand Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson only joined the session late as he nurses a leg injury.
But, said Foran: "There's no excuses. I've played enough tests now to be confident enough to transform my club form to test footy."
He realised he had scope to address that deficiency when learning Marshall was sidelined for at least a month with a toe injury - it was the equivalent of a kick up the backside for an integral component of the Kiwis' World Cup defence in October.
"I straight away knew I had to start thinking about the fact I was going to play a bigger role now, a lot more falls on my shoulders in this test."
"I've got to lead from the front. I'll be pushing the guys round the park and getting us to the spots we need to be."
Now it is Johnson who will play second fiddle to Foran in just his second test - a new combo that cannot hope to replicate the rapport shared by Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston.
"All we can do it look up and play what we see at the time," he said.
"I don't know Shaun well but he's got a great football brain, he's a great talent."
They have not had a lot of time on the training paddock since arriving in the capital but by rooming together there has been plenty of opportunity to discuss strategies.
"We've had a lot of time to talk about how we want to play together and I'm hopeful we can transfer that on to the field," he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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