Kearney names first part of NZ squad for tour

Six uncapped players have been named by New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney for the upcoming tour of England. Kearney has placed 14 players on stand-by from the NRL teams who did not make the top-eight play-offs.

They include New Zealand Warriors duo Tuimoala Lolohea and Solomone Kata, West Tigers pair Tim Simona and Manaia Cherrington and Parramatta forward Manu Ma’u, who played for Tonga earlier this year.

Also named is Warriors forward Bodene Thompson, who has yet to take the field for the national side, although he was part of the squad that won last year’s Four Nations Series.

Former Kiwis captain Gary Freeman has said he believes Lolohea, who can play a variety of positions in the back division, will get the nod ahead of Benji Marshall in the absence of the injured Shaun Johnson.

Marshall, 30, has not played for his country since 2012 and Kearney has made it clear several times that he wants to build the side towards the 2017 World Cup in New Zealand and Australia.

The wider Kiwis group is expected to consist of about 40 players and more will be named over the next month as their domestic seasons end.

Train-on camps will begin on September 23 in Auckland and Sydney, with the 23-strong touring squd to be announced soon after the NRL Grand Final on October 4.

New Zealand squad so far: L Brown (Penrith), M Cherrington (Wests Tgiers), K Foran (Manly), P Hiku (Manly), S Kata, T Lolohea (NZ Warriors), S Mannering, B Matulino, M Ma’u (Parramatta), S McKendry (Penrith), T Simona (Wests Tigers), M Taupau (Wests Tigers), B Thompson, D Whare (Penrith).