Veteran halves Benji Marshall and Kieran Foran have tonight been confirmed in the 19-strong Kiwi squad for the inaugural Oceania Cup Test against Mate Ma’a Tonga at Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland on Saturday, June 22 (5.40pm kick-off).
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-old Marshall joined the New Zealand team’s camp in Auckland tonight seven years 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 won’t join the Kiwis until tomorrow following his appearance for the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs against the Roosters in Sydney today.
He’ll travel with new Bulldogs team-mate and 2018 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.
• The Kiwis v Tonga Test is the second leg of a doubleheader which kicks off with the Kiwi Ferns facing Fetu Samoa at 3.10pm.
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NEW ZEALAND KIWIS | WIDER SQUAD
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