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Maguire to shake things up against his former right-hand man

Ahead of taking on a Toa Samoa side now coached by his former assistant Ben Gardiner, Michael Maguire has refreshed New Zealand's attacking plan and introduced a two-pronged approach at fullback.

The Kiwis will use both Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and Joey Manu at fullback during different stages of the match at Eden Park on Saturday, after Maguire previously preferred to play Manu as his first-choice No.1 and Nicoll-Klokstad as a dedicated centre.

While it’s an idea made more feasible by Nicoll-Klokstad enjoying a career-best season at the back for the Warriors in 2023, it’s also possible that Maguire is keen to give a new look to his side, which Gardiner developed an intimate knowledge of during his time as a Kiwis assistant between 2017-2022. 

Veteran playmaker Kieran Foran – who will come off the bench and likely play dummy-half against last year’s World Cup runners-up – said the concept will allow New Zealand to get the best out of both players on the ball.

“I think it’s a great plan… it gives us a bit of variation in our attack having both guys sort of chop in and out and I think it’ll be an upside,” Foran said.

“You have got a guy like Joey Manu who excels in a number of positions.

Joey is going to pop up anywhere, you’re not really going to know where he’s going to sit.

Kieran Foran

“That’s the beauty of having two genuine fullbacks in your side, you can use them differently and use them in different spots throughout the match.”

The presence of two in-form players with the ability to play fullback has been somewhat of a rarity for New Zealand in recent times, with Manu being the only real frontline option the Kiwis had in the position once Roger Tuivasa-Sheck was no longer available following the 2019 end-of-year Tests against Australia and Great Britain.

The Joey Manu show

After watching Manu claim the Golden Boot as international league’s top male player last year while playing as a fullback, the decision was no doubt a difficult one for Maguire as he looks to atone for last year’s World Cup semi-final loss to the Kangaroos.

“I have had some good conversations with Joey and I have stated that if he is playing fullback all the time he could probably be the world’s best,” Maguire said.  

“But Charnze has had a really good year… I have been really pleased how Charnze has gone this year off the back of a great year with the Warriors,

“He has deserved the opportunity to start at fullback.

CNK getting through his work

“We have tinkered around with how we want to do things with Joey, to be able to get a little bit of Joey going through the middle of the park.

“I’m sure he will scare a few once he gets in there.”

With Samoa having lost their Pacific Championships opener against Australia last weekend in Townsville, a New Zealand win on Saturday will guarantee the Kiwis and Kangaroos a place in the final on November 4.

Victory for Samoa however will mean everything remains on the line ahead of Australia hosting New Zealand in a week three clash at AAMI Park in Melbourne.

Secure your tickets to watch both the Kiwis v Toa Samoa and Kiwi Ferns v Mate Ma'a Tonga games at Eden Park here.

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