Kiwis out to exorcise World Cup demons

Peta Hiku. Photo: Getty
Peta Hiku. Photo: Getty
Enthusiasm sets the current Kiwis apart from the team who plunged ignominiously out of last year's World Cup, according to experienced back Peta Hiku.

One of eight survivors from the squad who fell to Fiji in the quarter-finals last November, Hiku admits the embarrassing failure is a demon the fresh-faced New Zealand side are desperate to exorcise against England in Denver this weekend.

Hiku believes new coach Michael Maguire has hit the right note early on with players since succeeding David Kidwell.

Despite the possibility of fielding up to seven new players, Warriors centre Hiku expects the underdog Kiwis will be competitive against an England side narrowly beaten by Australia in the World Cup final.

They are driven by a twin desire to forge a new era under Maguire and to restore pride.

"The position we ended up last year, I think everyone's willing to put their best foot forward and just take us away from that situation," Hiku said.

"Hopefully we can change people's minds from the World Cup in this next game.

"There's a lot of young players debuting and they're all fairly excited. That's probably the biggest difference."

The former Manly, Penrith and Warrington utility was delighted four former Samoan internationals had aligned themselves with the Kiwis, providing a fresh of breath air to the team.

Warriors wing teammate Ken Maumalo, Leeson Ah Mau and Herman Ese'ese were all part of a disappointing Toa Samoa World Cup campaign, while Bulldogs second-rower Raymond Faitala-Mariner - this week's bolter selection - last played a test two years ago.

"Number one, they want to play for New Zealand and if they're happy to do that, I'm happy to play alongside them," Hiku said.

"Seeing everyone excited to get their debut takes me back to when I first played."

Meanwhile, Maumalo will be among four New Zealand players involved in pre-game entertainment at a Major League Baseball game between the Colorado Rockies and New York Mets at Denver's Coors Field.

Coach Michael Maguire will also take to the diamond, along with an England contingent, to promote the test at nearby Mile High Stadium.

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