One Kiwi’s loss is another Kiwi’s gain.
New Zealand has lost players to the Pacific Islands for this year’s Rugby League World Cup but coach David Kidwell is content with his team.
With rampaging lock Jason Taumalolo, Manu Ma’u, Tuimoala Lolohea and David Fusitu’a to play for Tonga and a host of Kiwis regulars injured, Kidwell’s 24-man squad takes on an inexperienced look.
Skippered by veteran prop Adam Blair, the Kiwis have named five potential debutants for the World Cup, including Melbourne powerhouse Nelson Asofa-Solomona.
Of Kidwell’s chosen Kiwis, fewer than half have 10 Test caps to their name.
Addin Fonua-Blake, Danny Levi, Isaac Liu and Brad Takairangi may join Asofa-Solomona in making their international debuts, while Kenny Bromwich, Joseph Tapine and Te Maire Martin will likely play protagonists’ roles.
Jordan Rapana and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak are expected to play on either wing, with Gerard Beale and Dean Whare in the centres.
As a result, the Kiwis will look to a small core of experienced players – including Blair, Simon Mannering, Thomas Leuluai and Shaun Johnson – to provide leadership.
They’d be called upon to drive team standards.
“If you look at the players who aren’t there, we’ve probably got a whole other forward pack missing,” selector Tawera Nikau said, referring to Taumalolo, Jesse Bromwich and Kevin Proctor.
“But we’ve still got a competitive Kiwis side that we believe are 100 per cent focused on heading towards the World Cup.”
As a result of his absences up front, Kidwell has thrown a lifeline to Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, having dumped the prop for this year’s Anzac Day Test loss.
Elijah Taylor and Peta Hiku have also earned recalls.
Kidwell said he’d need Waerea-Hargreaves at his destructive best.
“I had a really good conversation with him – we looked each other in the eye, and he said he’s committed to the black and white jersey and he wants to give back to the jersey he’s passionate about it,” Kidwell said.
POSSIBLE KIWIS MATCHDAY SQUAD: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Jordan Rapana, Dean Whare, Gerard Beale, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Te Maire Martin, Shaun Johnson, Russell Packer, Thomas Leuluai, Adam Blair (c), Joseph Tapine, Kenny Bromwich, Simon Mannering. INTERCHANGE: Kodi Nikorima, Martin Taupau, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Nelson Asofa-Solomona.