Four players have forced their way back into NZ Kiwis contention for this week’s Anzac Test in Brisbane, after missing last year’s Four Nations triumph.
Coach Stephen Kearney has named his 18 players to prepare for Friday’s clash at Suncorp Stadium, with Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Dallin Watene-Zelzniak, Ben Matulino and Sam Moa returning to the fold.
Tuivasa-Sheck was unavailable for the end-of-season internationals, but has hit top form in his new role as Sydney Roosters fullback.
Teenager Watene-Zelezniak was actually named to make his Kiwis debut on the wing in the Four Nations opener, but broke a bone in his foot during the team’s build-up for that game and could play no further part in the tournament.
A variety of injuries kept Matulino out of the Kiwis’ programme last year, while Moa withdrew from Four Nations consideration because of a family illness.
“All of these players have been in good form so far this season and really put their hands up for inclusion in this Anzac Test side,” says Kearney.
“It’s a sign that we are developing some great young talent and good depth in certain positions.”
But the group has also suffered a couple of setbacks over the weekend, with news that Four Nations mainstays Dean Whare and Jason Taumalolo would not be available through injury.
Whare has nursed a hamstring strain for several weeks and could not take the field for Penrith Panthers tonight, while Taumalolo left the field early in North Queensland’s win over Newcastle yesterday with a knee injury.
“It’s disappointing to lose those lads, but that’s the nature of the game sometimes,” says Kearney.
“We wish them both a speedy recovery and we have total confidence in the players that take the field on Friday night,” says Kearney.
“We believe this team is capable of a job for us this week and it’s also an opportunity to take another step towards our ultimate goal – the 2017 World Cup.”
New Zealand Squad: Jesse Bromwich (Melbourne Storm), Lewis Brown (Penrith Panthers), Greg Eastwood (Canterbury Bulldogs), Kieran Foran (Manly Sea Eagles), Tohu Harris (Melbourne Storm), Peta Hiku (Manly Sea Eagles), Shaun Johnson (New Zealand Warriors), Shaun Kenny-Dowall (Sydney Roosters), Thomas Leuluai (New Zealand Warriors), Issac Luke (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Simon Mannering (New Zealand Warriors), Ben Matulino (New Zealand Warriors), Sam Moa (Sydney Roosters), Kevin Proctor (Melbourne Storm), Matin Taupau (Wests Tigers), Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Sydney Roosters), Manu Vatuvei (New Zealand Warriors), Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (Penrith Panthers).