Prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and halfback Jahrome Hughes are back in the New Zealand Kiwis’ Test line-up for the final Pool C Rugby League World Cup match against Ireland at Headingley in Leeds on Friday (7.30pm kick-off local time; 7.30am Saturday NZT).
The influential 33-year-old Waerea-Hargreaves resumes his international career after serving a three-match suspension incurred in the Sydney Roosters’ NRL week one finals loss to South Sydney in September.
Head coach Michael Maguire has named Waerea-Hargreaves on the interchange for his 33rd Test since making his debut against Mate Ma’a Tonga in his hometown Rotorua on October 14, 2009. It will be his first appearance for the Kiwis since facing Great Britain in Christchurch in November 2019.
Hughes featured in the Kiwis’ warm-up match against the Leeds Rhinos on October 8 but has been sidelined since after picking up a thigh strain in training two weeks ago.
He is reunited with standoff Dylan Brown for the first time since they paired up in the home Test win over Mate Ma’a Tonga in June, Brown cleared to play this week after his illness-enforced absence from last Saturday’s encounter with Jamaica.
While Maguire has quickly called in the squad’s longest-serving Test player in Waerea-Hargreaves, he has also included another four big forwards in the Kiwis’ starting pack to face Ireland.
After missing the 68-6 win over Jamaica, captain Jesse Bromwich returns in the front row alongside James Fisher-Harris while the imposing 200cm Nelson Asofa-Solomona has been switched to the second row with Joseph Tapine back at loose forward after he also missed the Jamaica contest.
Fisher-Harris, hooker Brandon Smith and second rower Kenny Bromwich remain from the starting pack used in the two matches against Lebanon and Jamaica.
Recalled on the wings are Jordan Rapana and Ronaldo Mulitalo after Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and debutant Sebastian Kris filled those positions against Jamaica – and scored five tries between them – while second rower Briton Nikora has been selected in the centres this week. He played there for much of the Jamaica contest after Marata Niukore left the field with a hamstring injury.
Kieran Foran, used in the halves in all three tour matches so far, moves to the bench where he was used against Tonga in June with Isaiah Papali’i, Isaac Liu and Waerea-Hargreaves rounding out the interchange. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and Scott Sorensen are the 18th and 19th players while prop Moses Leota (pectoral) and Niukore (hamstring) weren’t considered this week.
The Kiwis have beaten Lebanon 34-12 and Jamaica 68-6 in their first two pool matches while Ireland accounted for Jamaica 48-2 but lost 14-32 to Lebanon last weekend.
NZ KIWIS v IRELAND
7.30pm, Friday, October 28, 2022
1 JOSEPH MANU
2 RONALDO MULITALO
17 BRITON NIKORA
4 PETA HIKU
5 JORDAN RAPANA
6 DYLAN BROWN
7 JAHROME HUGHES
8 JESSE BROMWICH (C)
9 BRANDON SMITH
10 JAMES FISHER-HARRIS
12 KENNY BROMWICH
16 NELSON ASOFA-SOLOMONA
13 JOSEPH TAPINE
11 ISAIAH PAPALI’I
14 KIERAN FORAN
18 JARED WAEREA-HARGREAVES
20 ISAAC LIU
21 CHARNZE NICOLL-KLOKSTAD
23 SCOTT SORENSEN