Thurston fears for player safety at Old Trafford

DAVID LONG IN MANCHESTER
Last updated 10:11 30/11/2013
Johnathan Thurston
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INJURY FEARS: Kangaroos' five eighth Johnathan Thurston says he fears for the players in the Rugby League World Cup final.

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Kangaroos' five eighth Johnathan Thurston says he fears for the players in the Rugby League World Cup final because of the tiny in-goal areas at Old Trafford.

While the final will be played in a magnificent stadium, and one that's fitting of such an occasion, the problem is there is barely enough room to fit a rugby league pitch on the ground.

As a result the in-goal areas are about four metres deep. After that there's a steep slope down to the solid LED advertising screens.

There is barely any room by the sidelines either.

The Kangaroos have already lost Luke Lewis at this World Cup because of the tight grounds at the tournament. Lewis dislocated his shoulder smashing into the advertising hoardings in their game against Fiji in St Helens.

Thurston is concerned the same could happen again in the final.

"Hopefully there is padding there for the boys who are going to score tries," Thurston said. 

"If there isn't we'll see another incident like Lewy (Luke Lewis), who done his shoulder and that's not good for the game."

"Hopefully the tournament directors make sure that there is safety there," the Cowboys star added. 

"I think everyone's well aware of the drop offs and how short the in goals are.

"Hopefully we're smart enough. We're in the biggest game in our history and we hope that there will be safety precautions there."

World Cup organisers say there will be some padding around the in-goal areas, but whether there is enough remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, Thurston said he was optimistic about Billy Slater's chances of playing in the final.

The fullback hurt his knee in the quarterfinal against USA and had to sit out last weekend's match against Fiji.

He took part in the Kangaroos' captain's run yesterday, although his right knee was strapped.

"He looked alright out there," Thurston said. 

"It's a decision for the coaching staff and him to make, but from what I saw he looked the goods.

"He has had a week off, so he'll be fresh and ready to play. He is such a professional in the way he prepares and looks after his body.

"I think he'll be alright to play, he won't have any demons from the last World Cup.

"He tackles everything front on, so he'll be right to roll."

The player the Kangaroos undoubtedly fear the most is the newly crowned world's best player of 2013, Sonny Bill Williams. 

He was magnificent in last weekend's 20-18 win over England and the Kiwis will need him to step up again in the final.

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When asked what sort of impact Williams would have on the game, Thurston answered: "Hopefully not much!" Before letting out one of his trademark laughs. 

"But the competitor that I know he is, he'll be looking to set this game alight. 

"He is unfortunately on my edge. No doubt they will be sending a lot of traffic my way.

"So I've warmed these big shoulders up and I'm ready to roll."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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