New Zealand head coach Stephen Kearney has named his 19 man squad to play Australia at Old Trafford on Saturday (14:30).
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has resorted to pinching himself when around New Zealand’s star-studded side, as the Kiwis look to defend their title against pre-tournament favourites Australia in the Rugby League World Cup 2013 final at Old Trafford, Manchester on Saturday (2.30pm).
20-year-old Tuivasa-Sheck has made a huge impact in his first tournament for New Zealand, scoring in every match for the Kiwis, including two in each of his last three games – eight tries in five matches overall.
The Sydney Roosters back is enjoying every minute of RLWC2013, and was amazed by the atmosphere created by a huge crowd at Wembley for the Big Hit semi-finals, during which he scored a try that, thanks to Dean Whare’s incredible offload, has gone down as one of the best of the tournament so far.
“It’s fantastic to make it to the World Cup final,” said Tuivasa-Sheck. “It’s something that comes around once in a lifetime.
“The semi-final was good, I loved every moment of it. It was scary at times but I am happy that we won it.
“It was a crazy atmosphere, we couldn’t hear our calls, we couldn’t hear what the boys were saying, so we just had to use body language with each other.
“I was lucky to be at the end of two structured plays and I was happy to score for the boys. My first try was unbelievable. Dean Whare had some magic and it fell to me, and luckily I was there.
“It is pretty cool, I am loving everything about the World Cup. Just to look around at the boys, it keeps you going.
“My best times have been off the field, when the boys have been together and enjoying ourselves, having a good time. Especially with the boys that I am with, they are all my idols and heroes from when I was back in New Zealand.
“I pinch myself sometimes. I jump on the bus and see who I’m sitting next to and where I am now. It has been cool.”
RLWC2013 has marked an incredible year for Tuivasa-Sheck, as it was only a year ago that he was playing for the Roosters’ under-20s side.
“This time last year I was playing under-20s and I was hoping to continue on playing for the 20s,” said Tuivasa-Sheck. “We fell short last year then this year I wanted to try and go all the way to the finals with the 20s.
“I thought I could try and get up to First Grade but I wanted to focus on what I could control and the 20s was where I was at, so I focused on that until I got the call up.
“In my off season I like to play a lot of touch rugby so that it helps me with my offence and defence. I like to read the plays and I like to stay in the middle it helps with my steps
“I enjoy playing full-back but the right wing has been good to me. I’m just happy playing where the coach puts me.”
RLWC2013 reaches a climax on Saturday at Old Trafford, Manchester, where New Zealand face Australia in front of an expected capacity crowd at 2.30pm.
All general tickets have now been sold but hospitality packages are still available by contacting the 24-hour Ticket Hotline on 0844 8472013.
New Zealand team to take on Australia
Simon Mannering (c)
Sonny Bill Williams