Experienced New Zealand half-back Benji Marshall has been left out of the Kiwis squad to tour England later this year.
The former Kiwis captain had his season ended when St George were dumped out of the NRL play-offs by Canterbury last weekend, with Marshall leaving the field due to an ankle injury.
But the Kiwis say that regardless of his fitness, this is an opportunity to develop depth in the halves with a look to the future.
However, Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney says this isn’t necessarily the end of Marshall’s international career.
“He asked me the same question and I told him definitely not. Next year, we’ve got a pretty full calendar in terms of potential test matches and the Four Nations at the end of the year.
“If he has the desire to still play for New Zealand, he will go into the mix with everyone else.
“This tour gives us an opportunity to blood some depth in that position and giving some potentially young guys some test-match footy in that positions. I think that’s a positive for us, moving forward.”
The news comes as three more players – Jason Nightingale, Issac Luke and Bryson Goodwin – were all added to the field after their respective sides were eliminated from the NRL play-offs last week. Among them, the trio have compiled 68 tests in the black-and-white jersey – Goodwin 10, Luke 33 and Nightingale 25.
The latter two were part of this year’s Anzac Test triumph over Australia, but Goodwin’s last appearance was the 2013 Rugby League World Cup final.
“I thought Bryson finished off the year really well and while South Sydney were obviously disappointed with how it ended, he was one of their best players,” says Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney.
“Jason Nightingale has played a fair few tests and he knows what it takes to get the job done.”
New Zealand squad so far: Lewis Brown (Penrith Panthers), Manaia Cherrington (Wests Tigers), Kieran Foran (Manly Sea Eagles), Bryson Goodwin (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Peta Hiku (Manly Sea Eagles), Solomone Kata (NZ Warriors), Tuimoala Lolohea (NZ Warriors), Issac Luke (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Simon Mannering (NZ Warriors), Ben Matulino (NZ Warriors), Manu Ma’u (Parramatta Eels), Sam McKendry (Penrith Panthers), Jason Nightingale (St George Dragons), Tim Simona (Wests Tigers), Martin Taupau (Wests Tigers), Elijah Taylor (Penrith Panthers), Bodene Thompson (NZ Warriors), Dean Whare (Penrith Panthers)