NZ RL replacement arrives in moon boot

In bizarre scenes, unavailable winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak took part in New Zealand training on Tuesday after his replacement Jason Nightingale turned up in a moon boot.

Watene-Zelezniak had been ruled out of Friday night’s trans-Tasman clash in Brisbane due to an NRL ban, denying him a Test debut for the second time in six months.

But the Penrith winger was still needed to make up numbers at training after his replacement, Dragons veteran Nightingale, sat out Tuesday’s session resting a foot injury.

However, Nightingale said the moon boot was just “precautionary” and claimed he was a certain starter for the Kiwis.

Nightingale played his first game in a month for the Dragons last weekend and must wear a moon boot for two days after a game as part of his recovery.

New Zealand have a day off on Wednesday, ensuring Nightingale will have just one training session with his Kiwi teammates before tackling Australia at Suncorp Stadium.

“Obviously you’d like a full week of preparation and that’s not the way it’s going to be but I’ve prepared like this before,” Nightingale told reporters.

“But I’m very excited to be here in camp and it feels like it was only yesterday that we were all here for the Four Nations.”

Nightingale’s thoughts were with Watene-Zelezniak, who was rubbed out for one match when he took the early guilty plea to a dangerous throw charge.

The 19-year-old was charged by the NRL match review committee with the grade-one dangerous throw on Cronulla’s Wade Graham from Sunday’s NRL match.

It ensured he missed out yet again on a Kiwi debut.

Watene-Zelezniak was set to run out in the 2014 Four Nations series opener against Australia but fractured a foot in a freak accident in their Gold Coast camp on match eve, missing the whole tournament.

“We’re all gutted for Dallin and I know he’s very disappointed too,” said Kiwi coach Stephen Kearney.

“But we took a look at the incident on video and there was little likelihood that we could get it scaled down if we’d fought it.

“Under the circumstances, we were better off taking it on the chin and moving on in our short preparation for this Test, than diverting our energy into a judicial battle.”

Kearney hoped Watene-Zelezniak’s absence would not prove a distraction.

“It’s important we move on quickly as a group,” he said.

“I’m sure Dallin will come back again and be a real asset to this team for many years to come.”

If New Zealand defeat Australia, they can claim the world No.1 Test ranking by triumphing over England in an end of year three-match series.

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