Kieran Foran helps Peta Hiku step up for Kiwis

KIERAN Foran is not on this Kiwis league tour but the Manly five-eighth has played a crucial part in the preparation of Peta Hiku for his new role.

Hiku and Tui Lolohea remain the great imponderables of this series.

How will they cope with the demands in the halves, how will they gel, and how will they adjust to the extra pressure from England?

But Hiku in particular has been preparing for a long time - getting ready for his new challenge well before the team was named. He revealed yesterday he had extra sessions and advice from Foran, who has played almost 150 games in the halves for Manly as well as six years in the Kiwis jumper.

"Me and Kieran Foran are at Manly so he was helping me out when he found out earlier in the season that I'd be there," Hiku said.

"He helped me out throughout the season ... through our trainings and was a big help to me."

Still, it didn't allay Hiku's nerves when the reality sunk in, as the team was named and he was in a playmaking role.

"When I first found out I'd be playing in the halves, I couldn't explain what it felt like with my nerves," Hiku said.

"But coming into camp ... all [my] teammates believe Tui and I can do it. The support they give us helps quite a lot."

It must - and assistant coach David Kidwell insisted yesterday there is no extra pressure on the young halves combination, stating the team win and lose together. But there is no doubt that Hiku and Lolohea have an immense assignment, arguably greater than any they have faced in their careers.

But Hiku has proven his mettle before, coping with every challenge so far in his short international career.

He was thrown into fullback last year for the Four Nations tournament - with Josh Hoffman missing out, Kevin Locke missing in action and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck missing the tournament - and performed remarkably, one of the best players for the Kiwis across the month.

That was especially so in the final, under the most incredible pressure, and he also showed his playmaking ability to release Manu Vatuvei for the fourth Kiwis try.

Then in this year's Anzac test, he was placed at centre and held his own against Michael Jennings, one of the most dynamic players in the sport.

Hiku is Mr Versatile. In an age dominated by pure athletes, he is a 'footballer's footballer' in the old parlance.

"I suppose loving the game has a lot to do with it," said Hiku. "I'd play anywhere on the field, besides the middle - I hope I don't get that far in."

Still, Hiku hasn't got much experience in the halves, even including his days as a junior at the Manurewa Marlins.

"I could probably count [all my games there] on one hand," said Hiku. "In the under-20s for the Warriors, I played there a bit when Carlos Tuimavave was injured, but I don't have much experience."

Hiku will need to learn fast, up against Gareth Widdop, one of the most skilful and underrated halves in the world.

"It's not going to be easy ... of course it's not," said Hiku. "But we have built something pretty strong in this team and we are feeling confident about the game."

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