Vodafone Warriors prop Suaia Matagi is poised to play his first test for the NZ Kiwis against his old team-mates, Toa Samoa, at Whangarei’s Toll Stadium on Saturday.
Showing utmost respect for the Samoans, who went close to upsetting England in their Four Nations opener last Saturday, coach Stephen Kearney has stuck largely to the line-up that defeated Australia 30-12 in Brisbane.
Matagi (26), who represented the Pacific nation at last year’s Rugby League World Cup, is the only rookie in the playing line-up this week, replacing Greg Eastwood on the bench, although second rower Bodene Thompson also takes a step closer to his first international outing, as 18th man.
Hooker Issac Luke returns in place of Thomas Leuluai, after serving a two-game suspension that comprised South Sydney Rabbitohs’ NRL Grand Final victory and last week’s encounter with Australia.
The only other change from victory over the Kangaroos comes on the wing, where Manu Vatuvei replaces Gerard Beale.
Whangarei-bred prop Adam Blair will also wear the black jersey for the 29th time in his hometown.
The NZ Kiwis side to face Toa Samoa in Whangarei on Saturday are:
11-Simon Mannering (captain)