Kearney plays down pressure
Defending the World Cup will not add any extra weight to New Zealand's shoulders ahead of their game with Samoa, according to Stephen Kearney.
Five years have passed since the Kiwis - under the guidance of Kearney and Australian coaching guru Wayne Bennett - stunned the Kangaroos in Brisbane to win the last World Cup.
They followed that up with a Four Nations final win over the same opposition in 2010 and, despite losing all their subsequent games to Australia, have landed in England as the holders of the sport's two main international prizes.
The defence of one will begin in Warrington on Sunday but Kearney does not see his players feeling the burden of that.
"There's no pressure in terms of us feeling we're defending something," he said.
"The last time we beat Australia was in 2010, which was three years ago. And the time before that was five years ago, in 2008. So it's a long time since.
"For us, we understand what is ahead of us so any pressure will be from within. We have 24 guys who are all fairly talented who will be challenging themselves to get one of the 17 jumpers."
Recent history dictates that New Zealand are better in tournaments than they are in one-off Tests, with the Kiwis seemingly unable to perform to their best when only together for a week or so.
Kearney has cited the fact that large numbers of Australia's team also play together for Queensland as a reason behind the Green and Gold's ability to win ad-hoc games, and has been working hard to try to bridge the gap.
"The group of guys that the Australians have, they have been together for seven or eight years, and that has always been the challenge for us," the former Hull forward added.
"It has made things easier for them and we have tried to emulate that in terms of getting consistency with our selection, and developing our young men.
"This is our third trip to England as a group and they are all getting better for the experience. My focus is to keep that going and get us right for our first match."
Kearney is unlikely to be able to call on Thomas Leuluai for that fixture, with the former Wigan half-back struggling with a groin injury.