New recruit named in Kiwis squad
New Zealand coach Michael Maguire will talk to his senior players before choosing a captain for the October 13 Test against Australia at Mt Smart Stadium and upcoming tour to England.
Experienced stars Shaun Johnson, Adam Blair, Jesse Bromwich and Kevin Proctor are set to make their international returns for the Kiwis after being chosen in an extended squad which features Roosters centre Joseph Manu among five debutants.
Manu was one of three members of the grand final winning Roosters team in the 23-man squad, along with prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and lock Isaac Liu, while forward Zane Tetevano was denied his Kiwis debut after suffering a biceps injury in Sunday night's 21-6 defeat of Melbourne.
Storm prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona was also ruled out by an ankle injury but Bromwich - the former New Zealand captain - returns to the Test team after he and Proctor were stood down for last year's World Cup following an off-field incident in Canberra.
Melbourne team-mates Brandon Smith, Jahrome Hughes and Kenneath Bromwich have also been chosen by Maguire in a squad containing a mixture of experience and youth.
In Bromwich, Blair, Proctor, Waerea-Hargreaves and Manly prop Martin Taupau, New Zealand will boast a seasoned forward pack brimming with Test experience and, along with Johnson, are expected to be in contention to lead the Kiwis.
Blair would have been captain in the Denver Test but he was suspended and Maguire decided not to appoint an official skipper, although hooker Issac Luke dealt with the match officials.
I want to get the senior group together and I'm going to talk to those boys around that," Maguire said.
"I'll announce that through the week when we come together.
"I've got a few thoughts myself but I want to have a chat to a few of the senior guys that I've got in the crew. Ultimately it's building the team around that group of players and I want a few opinions from those boys as well."
Smith is expected to play hooker, with Brisbane's Kodi Nikorima to partner Johnson in the halves and Penrith's Dallin Watene-Zelezniak to play fullback in the absence of Dally M Medalist Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, who suffered a knee injury during the NRL finals series.
Tuivasa-Sheck's Warriors team-mates Issac Luke(shoulder) and Tohu Harris (knee) were also unavailable due to injury but 19-year-old second rower Isaiah Papali'i has been included, along with Johnson, Blair, centre Gerard Beale and winger Ken Maumalo.
Canterbury-bound second-rower Corey Harawira-Naera is the fifth uncapped member of the squad, along with Manu, Smith, Hughes and Papali'i.
Maguire said Manu had earned his selection after performing strongly for the Roosters during the NRL finals series, including Sunday night's 21-6 grand final triumph over the Storm.
"A young player coming into a squad at first grade level is one thing but he's been able to step up right through the finals series and you saw last night the way he played," Maguire said, "He's been able to take a step every single time he's been put on the big stage. That's what you're looking for.
"These boys will be playing on the big stage in a couple weeks and seeing a young player like that being able to step in and play in the finals and play the way he did, I'm looking forward to being able to bring him into the squad."
The selection of five new faces follows the introduction of seven Kiwi debutants for June's Denver Test against England.
Maumalo, Brisbane winger Jamayne Isaako, Wests Tigers centre Esan Marsters and Warriors-bound prop Leeson Ah Mau have again been chosen, while Bulldogs forward Raymond Faitala-Mariner and Newcastle pair Slade Griffin and Herman Ese'ese were ruled out due to injury.
"This is a new era for the Kiwis and that's again reflected in the make-up of this squad as it was for the Denver Test," Maguire said.
"A lot of experienced players have moved on in recent years in the shape of Simon Mannering, Thomas Leuluai, Manu Vatuvei, Jason Nightingale, Ben Matulino, Kieran Foran, Russell Packer and others.
"We're also without Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Issac Luke, Tohu Harris and Nelson Asofa-Solomona this time while there have been a number of players who have aligned themselves with Tonga.
"For us it's really exciting bringing in these new players as we strive to take the national side to the place we want it to be. That starts with the Test against the Kangaroos.
"It's a huge opportunity for us and for the sporting public having the world champions in our own backyard. We also have the Kiwi Ferns and the Junior Kiwis taking no Australia at Mount Smart Stadium."
New Zealand squad
Leeson Ah Mau (St George Illawarra Dragons), Gerard Beale (NZ Warriors), Adam Blair (NZ Warriors), Jesse Bromwich (Melbourne Storm), Kenneath Bromwich (Melbourne Storm), James Fisher-Harris (Penrith Panthers), Corey Harawira-Naera (Penrith Panthers), Jahrome Hughes (Melbourne Storm), Jamayne Isaako (Brisbane Broncos), Shaun Johnson (NZ Warriors), Issac Liu (Sydney Roosters), Joseph Manu (Sydney Roosters), Esan Marsters (Wests Tigers), Ken Maumalo (NZ Warriors), Kodi Nikorima (Brisbane Broncos), Isaiah Papali'i (NZ Warriors), Kevin Proctor (Gold Coast Titans), Jordan Rapana (Canberra Raiders), Brandon Smith (Melbourne Storm), Joseph Tapine (Canberra Raiders), Martin Tapau (Manly Sea Eagles), Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Sydney Roosters), Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (Penrith Panthers).
Kiwi Ferns squad
Raquel Anderson-Pitman, Apii Nicholls, Langi Veainu, Amber Kani, Annetta-Claudia Nuuausala, Aieshaleigh Smalley, Laura Mariu, Onjeurlina Leiataua, Masuisuimatamaalii Tauasa-Pauaraisa (all Warriors), Ngatokotoru Arakua, Karley Te Kawa, Kimiora Nati, Teuila Fotu-Moala, Maitua Feterika, Lavinia Gould, Lilieta Maumau (all Broncos), Honey Hireme, Raecene McGregor (both Dragons), Nita Maynard (Roosters)
Emry Pere, Peter Hola, Sean Mullany (all Cowboys), Joe Vuna, Isaiah Papali'i, Chanel Harris-Tavita, Hayze Perham, Tom Ale, Paul Turner (all Warriors), Lucky Ta'avale, Mawene Hiroti (both Rabbitohs), Steven Marsters (Dragons); Morgan Harper (Bulldogs); Kelma Tuilagi, Kayleb Milne (both Storm), Dean Blore (Panthers); Paul Roache (Raiders) ; Jordan Riki (Broncos); Jackson Ferris (Sharks)