Vodafone Warriors utility Thomas Leuluai comes back into the Kiwis’ line-up for their third Four Nations clash against England at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on Saturday (8.00pm kick-off).
With first-choice hooker Issac Luke returning last week, the 29-year-old Leuluai has been named on the bench for his 33rd international giving the Kiwis cover at dummy half and the halves.
Leuluai provided slick dummy half service to lay the foundation for a dominant display by the Kiwi forwards in the 30-12 win over Australia on October 25. He backed it up with potent defence but was omitted for the clash against Toa Samoa.
Also back on the bench after impressing against the Kangaroos is forward Greg Eastwood. In 41 minutes on the field in that match Eastwood made 125 metres from 13 runs. He replaces Vodafone Warriors prop Suaia Matagi, who made his Kiwi Test debut in Whangarei last week.
Leuluai’s return results in the energetic Lewis Brown being chosen as 18th man against England.
While coach Stephen Kearney has made two changes on the bench he has retained the same starting line-up used in the tight 14-12 victory over Toa Samoa last weekend.
That means Vodafone Warriors winger Manu Vatuvei stays on the left wing after his outstanding display in his first outing of the tournament last week (195 metres from 16 runs with nine tackle breaks.
Vatuvei and Luke apart, the other 11 players in the run-on side will be starting for the third consecutive week as will Martin Taupau and Tohu Harris on the bench.
England’s Phil Bentham has been appointed to referee the match.
FOUR NATIONS | FORSYTH BARR STADIUM, DUNEDIN
New Zealand | 1 Peta Hiku; 2 Jason Nightingale, 3 Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 4 Dean Whare, 5 Manu Vatuvei; 6 Kieran Foran, 7 Shaun Johnson; 8 Jesse Bromwich, 9 Issac Luke, 10 Adam Blair; 11 Simon Mannering (c), 12 Kevin Proctor; 13 Jason Taumalolo. Interchange: 14 Thomas Leuluai, 15 Greg Eastwood, 16 Martin Taupau, 17 Tohu Harris, 18 Lewis Brown.
11-Simon Mannering (captain)