Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s code swich isn’t just a hammer blow to the NZ Warriors. It is also crushing news for the Kiwis.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s defection to rugby isn’t just a hammer blow to the New Zealand Warriors.

It is also crushing news for the Kiwis in their bid to win a second Rugby League World Cup in England this year.

Coronavirus permitting, the World Cup is scheduled for October-November and, believe it or not, New Zealand have entered 2021 as the planet’s No.1 ranked team.

But it appears likely the Kiwis will have to try and live up to that billing without one of their best players in Tuivasa-Sheck.

A New Zealand Herald report suggested that the gun fullback may skip the tournament to fast track his All Blacks ambitions by playing in the national provincial competition.

Tuivasa-Sheck told reporters that those plans had not yet been decided but Kiwis captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak was planning for life without Roger in an interview with Wide World of Sports.

“They are big shoes to fill and it’s going to be hard,” said Watene-Zelezniak, who will likely play at fullback in Tuivasa-Sheck’s absence.

“I’m sure Roger will still be there for advice and amongst it.

“I’ll be chatting to him, he’ll still be in New Zealand so he’s not too far from home.

“My body will probably be saying ‘thank you’ (not having to tackle him in the NRL) but he’s a big factor in the Kiwis as well.

“The confidence that he gives each of us in the Kiwis – it’s going to be tough seeing him leave at the end of the year.”

Watene-Zelezniak is close with Tuivasa-Sheck and the code switch came as no surprise.

It is a move that the former would never countenance – it might cost a him a seat at the family Christmas table.

The Bulldogs man is the great grandson of Puti Tipene (Steve) Watene – a rugby league pioneer in the 1930s.

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Watene was the first Māori man to captain the Kiwis before becoming a member of parliament.

“My family was sort of against union,” Watene-Zelezniak said with a grin.

“Back in New Zealand it was always league, league, league.

“But I’m excited to see Roger in another code and where he can take his dreams and his career.

“I wasn’t too surprised – any code would want to take Roger.

“He’s not just an awesome athlete, he’s an awesome person too so it’s going to be sad seeing him leave the NRL.

“I’ll be following him all the way and I hope he does really well.

“I’m happy for him and his family and him getting to live some dreams and achieve some goals that he’s always had.”

Watene-Zelezniak was confident the Michael Maguire-coached Kiwis would find a way to remain a force without Tuivasa-Sheck.

“It’s our culture – any time you get to put on that jersey, you put it on like it’s your last time.

“You’re always at your best or you want to be at your best and that’s all you can ever hope for as a player.”

NRL

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