Australian skipper Cameron Smith has expressed surprise at his opposite Issac Luke’s omission from the New Zealand side for the trans-Tasman Test, as Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney predicted the hard-running rake wouldn’t be in the international wilderness for long.
Despite his underwhelming form since moving from South Sydney to the Warriors for the 2016 season, star hooker Luke was a surprise sacking from the Kiwis side chasing four successive wins over the Kangaroos in Newcastle on Friday.
Kangaroos No.9 Smith said he had expected to line up against 36-Test veteran Luke.
“Issac has played what 35, 40 Tests and I was a little bit surprised that he wasn’t there,” Smith said.
“But that is (coach) Stephen Kearney’s choice to do that for whatever reason he has decided.
“But for us it is not about who is there and who is not there. We expect them to play well and to play tough and that won’t change that.”
Luke said last week his NRL form didn’t warrant selection for the Kiwis and Lewis Brown or Kodi Nikorima are set to be named as Kiwis hooker when Kearney settles on his team on Tuesday.
Kearney said it was tough to leave Luke out without explaining why he didn’t make the cut.
“He made his debut the same night I made my debut as the coach. We have been on a fairly long journey together so it was a really tough decision to ring him and say he won’t be part of the group this time around,” Kearney said.
“I take my hat off to Issac. He understood why and knows what he needs to do to get back playing Test football and I have no doubt in the world he will do that.
“He might not be in the Kiwis now (but) he is still very much part of the family.
“He just needs to get in a position to be playing football that warrants him wearing a Kiwi jumper, today is not the day to go into the specifics of that.”