Three current Vodafone Warriors plus new signings Adam Blair and Gerard Beale have been named in the Kiwis’ 24-man squad for the Rugby League World Cup starting later this month.
Kiwi captain Blair and Beale join former Kiwi and Vodafone Warriors skipper Simon Mannering, the club’s 2017 captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and halfback Shaun Johnson. Mannering will be playing in his third World Cup after being involved in the 2008 triumph and the 2013 tournament while Tuivasa-Sheck and Johnson were in the 2013 squad.
Blair returns to the World Cup stage after being in the winning side in 2008 but missing the last competition. Beale is making his World Cup debut.
While they were included utility David Fusitu’a, who was in contention for the New Zealand team, has opted to play for Mate Ma’a Tonga, joining North Queensland’s Jason Taumalolo who has also made himself unavailable for the Kiwis along with former Vodafone Warrior Sio Siua Taukeiaho (Sydney Roosters).
This follows today's announcement that Cronulla prop Andrew Fifita has withdrawn from Australia’s squad to represent Tonga.
Five debutants Nelson Asofa-Solomona (Melbourne), Addin Fonua-Blake (Manly), Danny Levi (Newcastle), Isaac Liu (Sydney Roosters) and Brad Takairangi (Parramatta) as well as three from the victorious 2008 side - Blair and Mannering plus fellow veteran Thomas Leuluai.
Three players who featured in Sunday's NRL grand final have been selected - Kenny Bromwich and Asofa-Solomona from Melbourne plus North Queensland's Te Maire Martin.
Coach David Kidwell says he and his fellow selectors, Tawera Nikau, Hugh McGahan and Tony Iro are all proud and excited to name an enthusiastic squad that includes leadership, experience and a real want to work hard for each other.
"This is a unique opportunity, a World Cup in our country is a great honour and I can't wait to get into camp and work this this group of men and women who are all committed to the Kiwis," said Kidwell.
"There's a great mix of enthusiasm and experience in this side and a real desire to win this World Cup, I can't wait to show the people around New Zealand all the work we have been doing and how committed we are to this campaign."
Players not considered due to injury included Tohu Harris, Jordan Kahu, Kieran Foran and Ben Matulino.
RLWC2017 | NEW ZEALAND KIWIS
Fullback | Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Vodafone Warriors).
Wings | Jason Nightingale (St George Illawarra Dragons), Jordan Rapana (Canberra Raiders), Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (Penrith Panthers).
Centres | Gerard Beale (Cronulla Sharks/Vodafone Warriors), Peta Hiku (Warrington Wolves), Brad Takairangi (Parramatta Eels), Dean Whare (Penrith Panthers).
Halves | Shaun Johnson (Vodafone Warriors), Te Maire Martin (North Queensland Cowboys), Kodi Nikorima (Brisbane Broncos).
Hookers | Thomas Leuluai (Wigan Warriors), Danny Levi (Newcastle Knights).
Props | Nelson Asofa-Solomona (Melbourne Storm), Adam Blair (Brisbane Broncos/Vodafone Warriors) captain, Addin Fonua-Blake (Manly Sea Eagles), Russell Packer (St George Illawarra Dragons/Wests Tigers), Martin Taupau (Manly Sea Eagles), Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Sydney Roosters).
Back rowers | Kenny Bromwich (Melbourne Storm), Isaac Liu (Sydney Roosters), Simon Mannering (Vodafone Warriors), Joseph Tapine (Canberra Raiders), Elijah Taylor (Wests Tigers).
KIWIS AT RLWC2017 | POOL GAMES
v Toa Samoa
8.10pm, Saturday, October 28
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
v Scotland Bravehearts
5.00pm, Saturday, November 4
AMI Stadium, Christchurch
v Mate Ma'a Tonga
5.00pm, Saturday, November 11
FMG Waikato Stadium, Hamilton