Vodafone Warriors captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is back in the Kiwis for the first time since the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.
The fullback was ruled out of the Kiwis' five Tests last year but will be a welcome sight back on the international stage again on Saturday night after being named in the 19-man squad to take on Mate Ma'a Tonga at Mount Smart Stadium.
He's joined by fellow Vodafone Warriors Ken Maumalo and Leeson Ah Mau, who featured in all five internationals last year.
Standoff Kodi Nikorima was ruled out by the club with injury while Issac Luke, Isaiah Papali'i and Agnatius Paasi missed the final cut after being named in the initial extended squad.
Veteran halves Benji Marshall and Kieran Foran provided the big talking points when they were confirmed in the squad for the inaugural Oceania Cup Test.
The pair were initially included in a 27-man group named on Thursday night but have now moved a step closer to the prospect of a return to the Test arena.
The 34-year-iold Marshall joined the New Zealand team’s camp in Auckland on Sunday after last wearing the black and white jersey in the end-of-season Test against the Kangaroos in Townsville in 2012. Marshall was captain that night – the 27th Test of his career – in a match the Kiwis lost 10-18.
Foran returns to a New Zealand squad for the first time since lining up in the 2017 Anzac Test in Canberra, his 21st international. He doesn’t join the Kiwis until Monday afternoon following his appearance for the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs against the Roosters in Sydney on Sunday.
He’ll travel with new Bulldogs team-mate and Kiwi captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak along with Roosters players Joseph Manu, Issac Liu, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Tokoroa-born Zane Tetevano, one of three players in line to make their Kiwi Test debuts on Saturday night.
Tetevano (28) was originally selected for last year’s end of season campaign against Australia and England before being ruled out with injury following the Roosters’ grand final win. He now has a chance to wear the Kiwi jersey for the first time after previously representing Cook Islands in five Tests.
The other players in line to debut are Wellington-born Melbourne utility Jahrome Hughes (24) and Tauranga-born Cronulla second rower Briton Nikora (21), who made his NRL debut in the opening round this season.
Vodafone Warriors halfback Kodi Nikorima and Canberra’s Jordan Rapana and Joseph Tapine have been ruled out by their clubs while Vodafone Warriors second rower Tohu Harris was also unavailable.
In all 14 of the 19 players were involved in last year’s campaigns and a 15th – Tetevano – was an original selection. As well as Marshall and Foran, Vodafone Warriors captain and fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck – who has scored 13 tries in 16 Tests – makes his return to the Kiwis after last appearing in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.
NEW ZEALAND KIWIS | v MATE MA'A TONGA
LEESON AH MAU (Vodafone Warriors)
NELSON ASOFA-SOLOMONA (Melbourne Storm)
JESSE BROMWICH (Melbourne Storm)
KENNEATH BROMWICH (Melbourne Storm)
JAMES FISHER-HARRIS (Penrith Panthers)
KIERAN FORAN (Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs)
JAHROME HUGHES (Melbourne Storm)
SHAUN JOHNSON (Cronulla Sutherland Sharks)
ISAAC LIU (Sydney Roosters)
JOSEPH MANU (Sydney Roosters)
BENJI MARSHALL (Wests Tigers)
ESAN MARSTERS (Wests Tigers)
KEN MAUMALO (Vodafone Warriors)
BRITON NIKORA (Cronulla Sutherland Sharks)
BRANDON SMITH (Melbourne Storm)
ZANE TETEVANO (Sydney Roosters)
ROGER TUIVASA-SHECK (Vodafone Warriors)
JARED WAEREA-HARGREAVES (Sydney Roosters)
DALLIN WATENE-ZELEZNIAK (Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs) captain