Veteran forward Adam Blair is set to move to second equal on the Kiwis’ all-time appearances list in tonight’s Trans-Tasman Triple Header Test against the Kangaroos at Mount Smart Stadium (7.45pm kick-off).
The 32-year-old former Kiwi captain is named to come off the interchange bench for his 46th Test, drawing level with two other ex-Kiwi skippers Stacey Jones – now a Kiwi assistant coach – and Gary Freeman.
If Blair, who debuted in 2006, appears in all three Tests in England he will move within one appearance of becoming just the second player to appear in 50 Tests for the Kiwis behind Ruben Wiki (55), the former world record holder for international matches.
Vodafone Warriors forward Blair is comfortably the most experienced player in the squad for the end-of-season campaign with his club-mate Shaun Johnson next in line, set to play his 26th Test today.
The other players with more than 20 Test appearances are front rowers Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (24) Jesse Bromwich (24) and Marty Taupau (21) while returning second rower Kevin Proctor plays his 18th international tonight.
The Kiwis completed their on-field preparations with their final training session at Mount Smart Stadium yesterday before head coach Michael Maguire and debutant captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak joined Kangaroos counterparts Mal Meninga and Boyd Cordner – also captaining his country for the first time – at a packed media conference. It was followed by a joint photo opportunity with the coaches and captains from the Kiwi Ferns and the Australian Jillaroos, who’ll play in the second leg of the Trans-Tasman Triple Header (5.15pm kick-off). The opening match on the bill (3.05pm) is between the Junior Kiwis, led by 20-year-old Vodafone Warriors second rower Isaiah Papali’i, and the Junior Kangaroos. Papali’i will tour England with the New Zealand Kiwis.
Last night the Kiwis had their Test dinner with legendary 1998-2006 Kiwi Ali Lauitiiti presenting the jerseys to the players. Earlier in the week, Wiki also came into camp to address the team.
Throughout the week there has been a potent mix of former Kiwis throughout all three New Zealand teams.
Maguire has 2008 World Cup-winning Kiwi captain Nathan Cayless and Jones as two of his assistant coaches while two other illustrious Kiwis Nigel Vagana and Motu Tony, both working for the New Zealand Rugby League, are also on the team’s staff.
The Kelvin Wright-coached Kiwi Ferns boast Kiwi and Vodafone Warriors great Simon Mannering on their football staff along with Australian Justin Morgan, the former Vodafone Warriors prop and assistant coach.
Junior Kiwis coach Ezra Howe also has vast international and NRL experiences to call on from his staff in ex-Kiwis Clinton Toopi, Tony Iro and Jerry Seuseu.
NEW ZEALAND KIWIS v AUSTRALIAN KANGAROOS
7.45pm, Saturday, October 13, 2018
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
NEW ZEALAND KIWIS
1 DALLIN WATENE-ZELEZNIAK (c)
2 KEN MAUMALO
3 ESAN MARSTERS
4 JOSEPH MANU
5 JORDAN RAPANA
6 SHAUN JOHNSON
7 KODI NIKORIMA
8 JESSE BROMWICH
9 BRANDON SMITH
10 JARED WAEREA-HARGREAVES
11 KEVIN PROCTOR
(Gold Coast Titans)
12 ISAAC LIU
13 JAMES FISHER-HARRIS
14 KENNY BROMWICH
15 LEESON AH MAU
(St George Illawarra Dragons)
16 MARTIN TAUPAU
(Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles)
17 ADAM BLAIR
18 PETA HIKU
19 JAHROME HUGHES
HEAD COACH | MICHAEL MAGUIRE