Kieran Foran will captain his country for just the second time, and for the first time in this Rugby League World Cup, when the Kiwis take on Papua New Guinea on Friday night.
With Simon Mannering, the Kiwis’ regular skipper, being rested for this match, Foran will assume the duties he held mid-season in Canberra against the Kangaroos, when injury ruled Mannering out.
The Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney has named a strong side to take on the Kumuls, featuring the return of Josh Hoffman, Dean Whare, Manu Vatuvei and Sonny Bill Williams. Kearney was keen to give some combinations in his team a chance to settle, but also to rest a few key players.
“Particularly with the backs and edge forwards – in the sense of Alex Glenn and Sonny Bill Williams – it was a matter of getting consistency of who guys are playing alongside now,” said Kearney. “I think that’s important, keeping in mind what’s ahead for us. That was the idea behind having the likes of Dean Whare and Manu Vatuvei back in there.
“With the forwards, with Jesse Bromwich and Sam Moa not playing last week, it was an opportunity to give them a game. And we’re giving guys like Simon Mannering and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves a rest.”
Another of the Kiwis big forwards, Frank Pritchard, will have a week off to get over a couple of minor knocks from the match against France.
“Frank has a cork above his knee and a bit of a sore ankle. There was a short period of time from the plane trip on Monday to Friday’s match and I thought it would be best to give him a break.”
Kearney has given every player in his 24-man squad, barring Thomas Leuluai who still has a groin complaint, a run in the tournament. With pool play concluding this week, the pressure is mounting to choose his top side.
“Obviously there are some big players – such as Simon, Jared and Frank – not playing this week, but I couldn’t say for certain that this is the side that plays next week with those players I’ve just mentioned included.
“Right across the whole group, the pressure to perform is there because guys like Jason Nightingale, Kevin Locke and Krisnan Inu are waiting for an opportunity. That pressure is there, even more so, in the forwards. I think that’s a real positive for us.”
The full Kiwis team to play Papua New Guinea is:
Josh Hoffman – Brisbane Broncos
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck – Sydney Roosters
Dean Whare – Penrith Panthers
Bryson Goodwin – South Sydney Rabbitohs
Manu Vatuvei – Vodafone Warriors
Kieran Foran – Manly Sea Eagles
Shaun Johnson – Vodafone Warriors
Ben Matulino – Vodafone Warriors
Issac Luke – South Sydney Rabbitohs
Jesse Bromwich – Melbourne Storm
Alex Glenn – Brisbane Broncos
Sonny Bill Williams – Sydney Roosters
Elijah Taylor – Vodafone Warriors
Sam Moa – Sydney Roosters
Sam Kasiano – Canterbury Bulldogs
Frank-Paul Nu’uausala – Sydney Roosters
Greg Eastwood – Canterbury Bulldogs
Jason Nightingale – St George Illawarra Dragons
Simon Mannering – Vodafone Warriors