NEW ZEALAND KIWIS v MATE M’A TONGA
Venue: Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
Kick-Off 5.20pm, Saturday, June 25, 2022
Auckland, New Zealand, June 22, 2022 – Four players are set for their Test debuts when the Kiwis face Mate Ma’a Tonga in New Zealand’s first international in more than two and a half years at Mount Smart Stadium on Saturday night.
Of the eight new faces included in the wider squad this week, Parramatta duo Dylan Brown and Marata Niukore plus Cronulla Sutherland winger Ronaldo Mulitalo and Penrith prop Moses Leota will all play their first Test for the Kiwis.
Brown is paired in the halves with outstanding Melbourne halfback Jahrome Hughes while Niukore is named in the centres with the experienced Peta Hiku and Leota is on a potent bench.
In other selection features, head coach Michael Maguire has selected the versatile Joseph Manu at fullback while in-form Parramatta second-rower Isaiah Papali’i, who made his debut off the bench for the Kiwis in England 2018, is a starter in his second Test more than three and half years later.
Included on the interchange is 31-yeard-old Manly Warringah half Kieran Foran who makes another international comeback after overcoming adversity.
His return from a two-year absence in 2019 was cruelly ended by a dislocated shoulder just six minutes into the Kiwis’ first Test against Great Britain at Eden Park.
“It’s an exciting time for everyone involved having international rugby league back on deck after so long,” said Maguire.
“There’s a real buzz among the players for what is such a significant occasion for the Kiwi jersey and for the game as a whole.
“We’ve been able to bring together a group of players who have been in tremendous form so far this season and they’re desperate to do well for their country.
“It’s a special thrill giving debuts to Dylan, Marata, Ronaldo and Moses. They really deserve this opportunity.”
Newly-appointed captain Jesse Bromwich is the team’s most experienced player as he eyes his 30th Test match while Foran will play his 23rd since his debut in 2009.
1 JOSEPH MANU Sydney Roosters 815
2 RONALDO MULITALO Cronulla Sutherland Sharks –
3 MARATA NIUKORE Parramatta Eels –
4 PETA HIKU North Queensland Cowboys 781
5 JORDAN RAPANA Canberra Raiders 798
6 DYLAN BROWN Parramatta Eels –
7 JAHROME HUGHES Melbourne Storm 819
8 JESSE BROMWICH (c) Melbourne Storm 775
9 BRANDON SMITH Melbourne Storm 816
10 JAMES FISHER-HARRIS Penrith Panthers 801
11 ISAIAH PAPALI’I Parramatta Eels 817
12 KENNY BROMWICH Melbourne Storm 796
13 JOSEPH TAPINE Canberra Raiders 800
14 KIERAN FORAN Manly Warringah Sea Eagles 757
15 MOSES LEOTA Penrith Panthers –
16 NELSON ASOFA-SOLOMONA Melbourne Storm 804
17 BRITON NIKORA Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 818
18 JORDAN RIKI Brisbane Broncos –
19 DALLIN WATENE-ZELEZNIAK Vodafone Warriors 794
20 TE MAIRE MARTIN Brisbane Broncos 802
21 SCOTT SORENSEN Penrith Panthers –
22 ERIN CLARK Gold Coast Titans –
23 KEN MAUMALO Wests Tigers 810
24 GRIFFIN NEAME North Queensland Cowboys –