Thurston has safety fears

  • Last Updated: November 29 2013, 15:32 GMT

Australia playmaker Johnathan Thurston has expressed his team's safety fears ahead of Saturday's World Cup final against holders New Zealand at Old Trafford.

Johnathan Thurston: Has safety fears at Old Trafford
Johnathan Thurston: Has safety fears at Old Trafford

Thurston called on tournament organisers to ensure padding was in place behind the short in-goal areas to prevent a repeat of the incident during the Kangaroos' group game at St Helens in which second rower Luke Lewis was badly hurt.

Lewis suffered a dislocated shoulder after sliding into an advertising hoarding at Langtree Park and was ruled out of the rest of the tournament.

"Obviously the in-goal areas are very short and there's not much room from the sidelines to where the hill goes down," Thurston told a news conference after the captain's runs at Old Trafford.

"Hopefully the tournament directors will make sure there's padding there for the boys that are going to score tries because, if there isn't, we'll see another incident like Lewey. He does his shoulder and that's not good for the game.

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

A World Cup spokesman declined to comment but groundstaff were starting to apply padding to the area behind the in-goal lines which has been standard practice at Old Trafford since it began hosting the Super League Grand Final in 1998.

New Zealand captain Simon Mannering said his team would have to adjust to the short in-goal areas.

"It was the first thing I saw," he said. "It's going to take a pretty good kick to keep it in there.

"The guys out on the wing will definitely be putting their bodies on the line going for the ball.

"I'm not too sure if it's going to change too much what we're trying to do but it is something you have to be aware of."

Ivan Cleary, the Kiwis assistant coach, said: "We have to take it into a account.

"We've had a few games in this tournament where the in-goals have been short. It's not dis-similar to Headingley where we've played twice."

Saturday's final will be played in front of a record crowd for an international rugby league match after it was declared a 74,000 sell-out and Thurston said Friday's run-out at the home of Manchester United had given him "goose bumps".

"It's the first time I've played here," he said. "It's very exciting to be able to play at a world-class venue with so much history in a World Cup final.

"It's going to be a memory the boys are never going to forget. It's giving me goose bumps just thinking about it.

"I think the tournament has been great so far with all the venues that the nations have played at and certainly, to be playing the final at one of the most famous grounds in the world, I think they've got it right there."

Thurston will go into the game needing just six points to break Mick Cronin's 31-year record of 309 international points but he is more concerned with helping his team avoid a repeat of their shock defeat by the Kiwis in 2008.

"I don't play the game for records," said the goalkicking half-back, who is one of five survivors from the Kangaroos team that lost 34-20 in Brisbane five years ago.

"It's a team game, I'm just preparing the best I can to make sure I don't let any of the boys down.

"We need 17 guys to play their best footie to beat this Kiwi side. They've got strike power all over the park."

Full-back Billy Slater, whose blunder gifted a try to Benji Marshall in the 2008 final, is set to return after missing Australia's semi-final against Fiji with a knee injury but Thurston insists his team-mate will not be motivated by the chance of redemption.

"From what I saw on the pitch, he's looking the goods," Thurston added. "Obviously he's had the week off so he'll be fresh and ready to play.

"He's such a professional with the way he prepares and looks after his body, I think he'll be right to play and he won't have any demons from the last World Cup. He tackles everything front on."

Teams for Saturday's World Cup final at Old Trafford (2.30pm):

Australia: B Slater (Melbourne); B Morris (St George Illawarra), J Hayne (Parramatta), G Inglis (South Sydney), D Boyd (Newcastle); J Thurston (North Queensland), C Cronk (Melbourne); M Scott (North Queensland), C Smith (Melbourne, capt), J Tamou (North Queensland), G Bird (Gold Coast), S Thaiday (Brisbane), P Gallen (Cronulla).

Subs: D Cherry-Evans (Manly), A Fifita (Cronulla), C Parker (Brisbane), J Papalii (Canberra) or B Tate (North Queensland).

New Zealand: K Locke; R Tuivasa-Sheck (Sydney Roosters), D Whare (Penrith), B Goodwin (South Sydney), M Vatuvei; K Foran (Manly), S Johnson; J Waerea-Hargreaves (Sydney Roosters), I Luke (South Sydney), J Bromwich (Melbourne), S Mannnering (NZ Warriors, capt), S B Williams (Sydney Roosters), E Taylor.

Subs: A Glenn (Brisbane), S Kasiano (Canterbury Bulldogs), B Matulino, F-P Nu'uausala (Sydney Roosters).

Referee: R Silverwood (England).

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