Pritchard given last chance to prove his fitness
Frank Pritchard will be given one more chance to prove his fitness for Sunday morning's Rugby League World Cup final.
The big Kiwis second-rower has been suffering from a hamstring injury for the past week, which forced him to miss last weekend's pulsating semifinal against England.
Initially he was given until the team's training session on Wednesday (UK time) to prove his fitness, but Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney has decided to give him a further 24 for hours to show that he's ready.
Overnight Pritchard jogged around the field while the rest of the team went through their training session.
The fact that Kearney has pushed back the deadline for Pritchard, indicates just how vital he is for the team. So while the rest of the squad will hit the golf course or the Manchester shops on their day off, Pritchard will be testing the hamstring.
As for the other players who were under injury clouds, Kearney said they had made progress.
"Manu [Vatuvei] trained fully with the group today," Kearney said.
"We will just have to wait and see how he pulls up from today's session and we will make a call on him tomorrow. "Frank Pritchard is going to have a run in the morning and we will make a call on him after that.
"Roger [Tuivasa-Sheck] trained with the group today. Everyone else is good to go."
Those others are Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, who had a slight neck strain and Frank-Paul Nu'uausala who was suffering from a haematoma on his calf.
If Pritchard can play, Simon Mannering should move back to lock with Elijah Taylor going on to the interchange and Alex Glenn dropping out of the squad.
"It was a pretty significant strain of the hamstring," Kearney said of Pritchard.
"Frank has been a pretty integral part of the group for a few years now and we want to give him every opportunity we can to get him out there, but we will see how he runs tomorrow."
As for the final, which kicks off at 3.30am on Sunday (NZ time), Kearney said the tough game against England would help them get up to the level of intensity needed to play Australia.
"We know the intensity we played at on Saturday was a benefit to the group," he said.
"We were pushed to the last 20 seconds and it took a pretty brave performance from the lads to get us in a position where we could come out winners.
"I have no doubt that is going to be of benefit, but our performance in that game wasn't really good in certain stages. "We have some improving to do – that's where our focus has been this week.
"Regardless of Australia's game in the semifinal and what they have done before, we are aware of what they are going to throw at us. From our point of view we need to be at our best on Saturday."
Meanwhile, Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens said he was hopeful he would be able to pick Billy Slater for the match. The fullback damaged a knee in the quarterfinal against USA.
Like Pritchard, he is an integral part of his country's side and Sheens will give him as long as he can to get right.
"Billy trained today and we will wait and see what happens tomorrow, and there will be another session on Friday. He trained really well today," Sheens said.
"I'm never confident about these things but what I saw today gives me some hope he will be available.
"We will give him a good chance but as a coach you plan for the worst-case scenario."