St George and England half-back Gareth Widdop admits he was left a bit surprised when Dragons teammate Benji Marshall failed to make the New Zealand squad for this year’s Test series between the two sides.
Marshall won’t travel to England and has since undergone post-season surgery, with Stephen Kearney going for younger options in the halves with the likes of Golden Boot winner Shaun Johnson out injured.
And Widdop admits although it was a difficult choice for Kearney to make, he was surprised to see him left out.
“It’s a difficult one,” said Widdop. “We sit next to each other in the locker room so there’s always a lot of banter between the two of us.
“I was a little bit surprised but for whatever reason he isn’t there and he’s had surgery any way. It’s unfortunate for himself.
“They’ve got thousands of players to pick from. They’ve got a few young kids in there, Lolohea is a good kid, a good player.”
Despite plenty of injuries hampering their preparations for the tour, Widdop is refusing to take the Kiwis lightly.
“New Zealand are obviously a great team, very dangerous. They’re number one in the world so it’s going to be a difficult Test series.
“But it’s about us and what we do. We’ll worry about ourselves and do everything possible we need to do to make sure we perform well.
“We’ve been close the last few years, we just haven’t quite got there. It’s great that we’re playing at home in front of our own fans. The atmosphere is obviously a lot different to over there. It’s great to get the opportunity to play in front of our passionate fans.”