The Kiwis have turned to the Sydney City Roosters playbook as they work to tighten their defence ahead of Friday's Rugby League World Cup clash with France.

The Samoans romped down New Zealand's left side in last weekend's tournament opener, with the world champions conceding four tries in just 11 minutes during their 42-24 win.

So there are no prizes for guessing what the focus has been in Avignon this week.

"Obviously defence," Mannering said after Thursday's brief captain's run at Parc des Sports.

"It was pretty average for long periods of time in last week's game. We turned over a lot of ball and gave them a leg up there."

Rookie half Shaun Johnson is known as one of the weaker defenders and has been working closely with Sonny Bill Williams, who's not playing this week, but is still having plenty of input.

"Coming from the Roosters system, which this year proved to be pretty good, it's interesting to see how they work," Johnson said.

"Coming together from different clubs, we all have different systems.

"I think we'll buy into the Roosters one while we're away in Kiwi camp. It proved to work for them, so hopefully it can do the same for us."

Williams seems to be New Zealand's defensive general, with coach Stephen Kearney assigning him the task of preventing tries.

Kearney says defence is still a collective responsibility, although Williams, Kieran Foran and Mannering play key roles as leaders.

In the centres, Bryson Goodwin has been given a second chance after a wayward night in Warrington, while Ben Matulino and Greg Eastwood get their first start at the Cup.

Jason Nightingale, Kevin Locke and Krisnan Inu will also make their tournament debuts.

Kearney acknowledges there's no quick fix bedding in the new combinations.

"It's going to take time, it's just a matter of making sure that as we're ticking along that we're getting better and better in that area," he said.