A total of 11 Vodafone Warriors players have today been named in the train-on squad to prepare for the Kiwis’ one-off Test against the Kangaroos in Perth next month and the Four Nations in England to follow.
Seasoned internationals Simon Mannering, Issac Luke, Thomas Leuluai, Manu Vatuvei, Ben Matulino and Shaun Johnson headline those named.
Also included are second rower Bodene Thompson, fullback/centre David Fusitu’a, utility Tuimoala Lolohea, centre Solomone Kata and prop Sam Lisone.
Thompson was in New Zealand’s title-winning 2014 Four Nations squad but didn’t make an appearance. Fusitu’a, Lolohea and Kata have all played Test matches for Mate Ma’a Tonga while Lisone has represented Toa Samoa.
This time last year Lolohea and Kata were among just five Vodafone Warriors included in the train-on squad for the end of season tour to England. Leuluai, Vatuvei and Johnson were all ruled out with serious injuries.
The first batch of players named in the train-on squad was selected from the eight clubs which failed to qualify for the NRL finals starting this week.
In all 23 players have been named .
Others yet to play for the Kiwis are Manly prop Addin Fonua-Blake, Roosters forward Isaac Liu, Wests Tigers centre Tim Simona and Parramatta centre Brad Takairangi.
Liu, Takairangi and Thompson have been part of Kiwis squads before, without actually taking the field.
The wider squad currently consists of 36 players and will be named in instalments as their teams drop out of NRL premiership contention over coming weeks. The size of that squad will also fluctuate, depending on injuries and other unavailabilities that arise.
Several Kiwis regulars are already ruled out through injury and other factors, including Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Peta Hiku, Dean Whare, Kieran Foran and Kodi Nikorima.
A final travelling squad of 24 will be named during the week after the NRL Grand Final on October 2.
The first group of Kiwis train-on players named is:
KIWIS | 2016 TRAIN-ON SQUAD
Manly | Lewis Brown, Addin Fonua-Blake, Martin Taupau
Parramatta | Manu Ma'u, Brad Takairangi
St George Illawarra | Jason Nightingale
Sydney Roosters | Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Isaac Liu, Sam Moa, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
Vodafone Warriors | David Fusitu’a, Shaun Johnson, Solomone Kata, Thomas Leuluai, Sam Lisone, Tuimoala Lolohea, Issac Luke, Simon Mannering, Ben Matulino, Bodene Thompson, Manu Vatuvei
Wests Tigers | Tim Simona, Elijah Taylor