Thirty-test veteran Simon Mannering has been named Kiwis captain, replacing Benji Marshall who was dumped from the position by coach Stephen Kearney yesterday.
Mannering was offered the position by Kearney on Wednesday, but the answer wasn’t a ‘yes’ straight away.
After seeing a missed call on his mobile, then a voice message and a couple of follow up texts Mannering says he knew “something was up” and wondered if he “was in trouble”.
“I can’t say I saw it coming. He (Kearney) just dropped it on me,” the Warriors captain told 3 News today at the official announcement in Auckland.
“Initially I thought what an honour it was,” says Mannering, before telling Kearney that he “was not going to say no” but needed to talk to his dad and partner first.
“Let’s do it,” Mannering simply said to Kearney when he called him back.
The 26-year-old back-rower was a member of the 2008 World Cup-winning Kiwis side that beat Australia in the final, and has been a stalwart of the Warriors club since making his debut against the Brisbane Broncos in 2005.
He says the step up to captaining the national side is a “huge honour”, but he’s not planning on trying to emulate Marshall.
“He’s a special player and has led the team very well. It’s a tough gig (to be like Marshall). I just want to try and do what’s best for the team and not try to be anyone I’m not and really just enjoy the job,” says Mannering.
He says taking over the captaincy in a World Cup year – to try and defend the title the Kiwis hold in England in seven months time – is “not going to be easy”.
He says he’ll be calling upon experienced players to help out, and Marshall’s name is at the top of the list.
“I’ve enjoyed playing alongside and under Benji for a number of years for the Kiwis. He’ll definitely have just as much input in the team and he’s a key part of the Kiwis.”
Kearney’s announcement yesterday that he had stripped Marshall of the captaincy was a surprise move ahead of this year’s World Cup.
Today, Kearney made it clear that Marshall was spoken with prior to any further steps being taken, including the phone call to Mannering to offer him the job.
"It was a very tough conversation (with Marshall)," said Kearney in a statement.
"Benji is an immensely proud New Zealander and his desire was to continue in the captaincy role.
"Although this decision has been a difficult one, it has been made in the best interests of the team and Benji will remain an integral part of the Kiwis going forward."
Marshall, 29, played a key role in New Zealand's shock World Cup final defeat of Australia in 2008, with the West Tigers playmaker scoring a try and kicking two conversions in the 34-20 win.
Jeremy Smith, Alex Glenn and Kieran Foran were other leading contenders for the job.
The Kiwis' next Test is the Anzac clash against Kangaroos in Canberra on April 19.