Four Vodafone Warriors are set to line up for the New Zealand Kiwis in Friday night's Oceania Cup Test against the Kangaroos at WIN Stadium in Wollongong (8.10pm kick-off local time; 10.10pm NZT).
Among them will be veteran forward Adam Blair (33), who is now in sight of achieving a second major career milestone in a matter of months.
The first came in June when he became just the third New Zealander after Ruben Wiki and Simon Mannering to reach the 300-game mark in the NRL.
Now he is closing in on joining Wiki as the only players to appear in 50 Tests for the Kiwis.
Blair has been named to start at loose forward in what will be his 49th Test, an unlikely scenario when he was holidaying on the Gold Coast a week ago.
Not originally selected in the Kiwis' World Cup 9s or end-of-year Test squads, Blair was contemplating returning to the Vodafone Warriors for the start of preseason training when fate struck.
Faced with the loss of key forwards, Kiwi head coach Michael Maguire came calling and Blair quickly responded to play a key role at the World Cup 9s as the New Zealanders reached the final.
Now he's back in the Test arena after missing the Tonga Test in June. It leaves him with the chance of playing his 50th Test in front of family and friends when the Kiwis face the Great Britain Lions at Eden Park on November 2.
The other three Vodafone Warriors named are fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, winger Ken Maumalo and prop Leeson Ah Mau.
Two other Vodafone Warriors - Kodi Nikorima and Isaiah Papali'i (who joined the squad yesterday) - are on the extended bench.
Four debutants have been named including starting centre Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad.
Nicoll-Klokstad (24) is one of four changes to the starting line-up used in the Kiwis’ 34-14 win over Mate Ma’a Tonga in June.
With Tuivasa-Sheck at fullback, the Canberra custodian replaces the injured Esan Marsters in the centres while Jamayne Isaako comes in for injured captain Dallin Watene-Zeleniak on the right wing, Ah Mau starts in the front row for Jesse Bromwich, out with a foot injury, and Blair comes into loose forward for Isaac Liu (knee).
Nicoll-Klokstad apart, the other debutants are all on the bench – forwards Zane Tetevano, Braden Hamlin-Uele and Corey Harawira-Naera. They fill vacancies created by Ah Mau moving into the starting line-up plus Nelson Asofa-Solomona being suspended and James Fisher-Harris injured.
Benji Marshall (34), playing just his second Test since 2012, has now been recalled as captain seven years after last filling the role against the Kangaroos in Townsville. This will be his 20th match as captain, taking him clear of Gary Freeman for the record for the most Tests as Kiwi captain.
NEW ZEALAND KIWIS v AUSTRALIAN KANGAROOS
8.10pm, Friday, October 25, 2019
WIN Stadium, Wollongong
NEW ZEALAND KIWIS
1 ROGER TUIVASA-SHECK
2 KEN MAUMALO
3 CHARNZE NICOLL-KLOKSTAD
4 JOSEPH MANU
5 JAMAYNE ISAAKO
6 SHAUN JOHNSON
7 BENJI MARSHALL (c)
8 LEESON AH MAU
9 BRANDON SMITH
10 JARED WAEREA-HARGREAVES
11 BRITON NIKORA
12 KENNY BROMWICH
13 ADAM BLAIR
14 JAHROME HUGHES
15 ZANE TETEVANO
16 BRADEN HAMLIN-UELE
17 COREY HARAWIRA-NAERA
18 KEVIN PROCTOR
(Gold Coast Titans)
19 BAILEY SIMONSSON
20 KODI NIKORIMA
21 ISAIAH PAPALI’I
HEAD COACH | MICHAEL MAGUIRE