Vodafone Warriors winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak will play his first Test in more than three years in the New Zealand Kiwis’ second Rugby League World Cup match against newcomer Jamaica at Hull’s MKM Stadium on Saturday (7.30pm kick-off local time; 7.30am Sunday NZT).
The 27-year-old’s last Test was the midseason international against Mate Ma’a Tonga when he led the Kiwis to a memorable 34-14 win at Mount Smart Stadium.
Watene-Zelezniak missed 2019 end of season Tests against Australia and Great Britain as well as this year’s June international against Tonga.
He’ll play his 13th Test on Saturday while on the other wing Canberra’s Sebastian Kris will make his debut
Kris and Watene-Zelezniak come in for Ronaldo Mulitalo and Jordan Rapana who both played in the opening 34-12 win over the Lebanon Cedars in Warrington last Sunday.
Two-time NRL premiership winner Scott Sorensen also makes his Test against the Reggae Warriors.
The 29-year-old Sorensen will become the fifth member of the remarkable Sorensen family to represent the Kiwis at Test level.
Kris (24) caps a remarkable story of his own by earning his first Test jersey after he stepped aside from the NRL in 2020 before reviving his career in 2021. He scored a first half hat-trick in his first appearance in the Kiwi jersey in the 74-0 match against Leeds on October 8.
Sorensen, a try scorer in Penrith’s second straight premiership win, has been brought onto the bench for the Kiwis’ second Pool C match against Jamaica’s Reggae Warriors, who are at the Rugby League World Cup for the first time.
Head coach Michael Maguire has also made some other changes.
Parramatta’s Warriors-bound Marata Niukore has been named at left centre replacing ex-Raider Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and another of Penrith’s grand final winners Moses Leota will start in the front row with his clubmate James Fisher-Harris. Leota was named for the match against Lebanon but was ruled out after picking up a minor groin injury in the team’s final field session. He comes into the side for captain Jesse Bromwich with Fisher-Harris chosen to lead the Kiwis on Saturday.
There’s a swap in the second row which sees Cronulla-Sutherland’s Briton Nikora moved from his bench role against Lebanon to start against Jamaica while Parramatta’s Wests Tigers-bound Isaiah Papali’i is switched to the interchange.
Also out of the side this week is Canberra loose forward Joseph Tapine with Gold Coast’s Isaac Liu recalled for his ninth Test.
Sorensen’s selection comes more than 70 years after his late grandfather Bill Sorensen (Kiwi #338) began his New Zealand career. He went on to play 24 Tests from 1951-1960.
His brother Dave (Kiwi #494), Scott’s great uncle, represented New Zealand in 1971-1972 before brothers Dane and Kurt Sorensen – Scott’s uncles – left an indelible mark on the rugby league landscape.
Between them Dane (#520) and Kurt (#524) played 45 Tests for New Zealand in the course of their outstanding professional careers spanning the 1970, ‘80s and ‘90s.
Dane finished his NRL career with 229 appearances for Cronulla-Sutherland and Eastern Suburbs including a then-club record 216 for the Sharks. Kurt made almost 130 NRL appearances for the Sharks and more than 250 for Widnes, ending his career with the club with a try in the 1993 Challenge Cup grand final loss to Wigan.
NZ KIWIS v JAMAICA
MKM Stadium, Hull
7.30pm, Saturday, October 22
NEW ZEALAND KIWIS
1 JOSEPH MANU
24 SEBASTIAN KRIS
3 MARATA NIUKORE
4 PETA HIKU
19 DALLIN WATENE-ZELEZNIAK
6 DYLAN BROWN
14 KIERAN FORAN
15 MOSES LEOTA
9 BRANDON SMITH
10 JAMES FISHER-HARRIS (C)
12 KENNY BROMWICH
17 BRITON NIKORA
20 ISAAC LIU
11 ISAIAH PAPALI’I
16 NELSON ASOFA-SOLOMONA
22 JEREMY MARSHALL-KING
23 SCOTT SORENSEN
21 CHARNZE NICOLL-KLOKSTAD
8 JESSE BROMWICH