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We choose: New Zealand Test team

We choose: New Zealand Test team
Injuries mean there will be plenty of new faces in this year's Kiwis team for the mid-year Test against Australia. Credit: Grant Trouville Copyright: NRL Photos

Stephen Kearney take note: After hours of form research, checking on and not a small amount of soul-searching, NRL.com has come up with the following Kiwis team for the one-off Test at Allianz Stadium on Friday May 2. The national selectors will name their squad at 5pm this Sunday. 

See NRL.com's Australian Test team
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1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck

When a side is shaken to its core by injuries to key players including Kieran Foran and Issac Luke, massive changes are inevitable. Consider this game then as a litmus test for the man earmarked to replace former Golden Boot winner Anthony Minichiello at the Roosters next year, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. Young RTS demonstrated his capabilities of filling the role with a 360-degree step last weekend. His 138.8 metres per game in 2014 is a testament to his growing ability.

2. Jason Nightingale

Nightingale, or Gypsy to Red V teammates, seems to have fallen out of favour when it comes to the NZ Test team in recent times. His form in 2014 though is way too hard to ignore. Even without Foran going down with a medial ligament injury to his knee, Nightingale would've been in our side. Four tries in seven games for the Dragons this year should be enough for Gypsy to make a comeback.

3. Dean Whare

Dean Whare has carved a niche for himself in the Kiwi side over the past two years. Having eight caps to his name already for the Kiwis from just 57 first-grade games is a remarkable effort. The Penrith centre has proven a hit at the foot of the mountains in 2014 with three tries, three line breaks assists and 14 tackle breaks to his name – the perfect provider for any winger outside him.

4. Shaun Kenny-Dowall

Shaun Kenny-Dowall had to take the good with the bad in 2013. Sure, he won a premiership with the Roosters but he broke his jaw in the grand final, ruling him out of the World Cup. With Bryson Goodwin getting plenty of game time on the wing for the Rabbitohs in recent weeks, Kenny-Dowall has played admirably in a Roosters side warming to the task in recent weeks. His match-winning try-scoring double last weekend against Cronulla will have helped his chances.

5. Manu Vatuvei

Hasn't set the world on fire at club level but is too good to overlook on the big stage. 'The Beast' is not bending the line as much as in recent years, and has just five tries so far for the Warriors. He will have to be outstanding here if he's going to add to his 24 Tests down the line when others return from injury. 

6. Josh Hoffman

Brisbane's stop-gap solution at five-eighth looks set to do the same for the Kiwis. While Thomas Leuluai would've been five-eighth under any other circumstance after Foran's injury, it should be remembered the Kiwis will also be without Issac Luke. Leuluai is only one man, so it is now up to Josh Hoffman to step up to the plate. This could be a much-needed confidence booster for Hoffman.

7. Shaun Johnson

Shaun Johnson is a rocks-or-diamonds kind of player. He will do something amazing - just look at the Auckland Nines highlights reels - then he will inexplicably come up with a clanger. Luckily for New Zealand he is more often brilliant than baffling, and they've got him for the long run, with no-one remotely close to challenging him for the halfback spot. Expect to see more diamonds from Johnson as his Test appearances accumulate and he matures. 

8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves

Waerea-Hargreaves is a part of the furniture nowadays when it comes to the Kiwis side. The Roosters' firebrand has continued to fire on all cylinders since the World Cup and his country's chances hinge on him if they're going to win the game. Sounds like a 1980s action movie doesn't it? Regardless, the proof is in the pudding with Waerea Hargreaves. Has averaged 93.6 metres and 28 tackles in 2014.

9. Thomas Leuluai

While he won't admit it, New Zealand's Mr. Fix It Thomas Leuluai will be thrown around for a couple of positions before he's settled in. With Issac Luke and Kieran Foran injured, Leuluai has been earmarked (depending on who you talk to) for both positions. Leuluai played only a couple of minutes in the World Cup last year because of injury so look for him to make amends. Luke will be sorely missed pre-game too, meaning Leuluai will have to lift in the haka. 

10. Jesse Bromwich

Does Jesse Bromwich get tired? Already for the Melbourne Storm this year Bromwich has run well over a kilometre on the footy field at a rate of 150 toiling metres per game. His 15 tackle breaks and 10 offloads are a testament to how much the 24-year-old prop has come along in the past four years.

11. Simon Mannering

Captain Mannering is the defensive king the Kiwis team sorely missed this time last year. Accustomed to fitting in competently at centre and second row, Mannering has killed it in 2014 with an average of 30 tackles per game. While his club side are struggling, Mannering will bring great positivity to the national arena. 

12. Alex Glenn

With Sonny Bill Williams pledging his allegiance to Union in 2015, the Kiwis have chosen to go down another path and not consider Williams for the Test. Enter the much-deserving Alex Glenn. His 121.3 metres for the Broncos demonstrates his classiness in light of the great players he competes with in club footy.

13. Elijah Taylor

You're better off asking Elijah Taylor about what position he can't play competently. There's a reason why Ivan Cleary chased the former Warrior to come to Penrith. He has the speed and prowess to break a game, playmaking capabilities when needed and his defence has been remarkable in 2014 – punctuated by his average of 40 tackles per game for the Panthers. 

Interchange

14. Manu Ma'u

He is already a Parramatta favourite, so it will be no surprise if Manu Ma'u completes his journey from the doghouse to the penthouse next Friday night at Allianz Stadium. Has only played seven NRL games but has delivered much-needed aggression and intensity for his team. Expect Stephen Kearney to unleash Ma'u's raw passion on the tiring Kangaroo forwards. 

15. Ben Matulino

Ben Matulino has become almost an automatic selection for the Kiwis when available in a short space of time. The extremely reliable prop, Matulino has been one of the Warriors' best since making the jump to the NYC in 2008. Will line up for his 20th Test if picked.

16. Frank-Paul Nu'uausala

There's a reason they call him the Wrecking Ball. Never one to back down from a grinding game of footy, Franky-Paul will easily account for any opponent when given the chance. While his minutes are down this year for the Roosters, expect him to make up for lost time when it comes to the black and white jersey.

17. Sam Moa

When the Roosters signed Sam Moa for the 2013 season no-one thought much of it. With the likes of Jennings, Sonny Bill and Maloney joining the ranks, Moa was something of an afterthought. Until he played, that is. Unlucky not to have won the Clive Churchill medal in last year's Grand Final, Moa has broken the old adage that front-rowers don't score tries in 2014, after crossing for three of his own already.

NRL.com's New Zealand Test side
1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
2. Jason Nightingale
3. Dean Whare
4. Shaun Kenny-Dowall
5. Manu Vatuvei
6. Josh Hoffman
7. Shaun Johnson
8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
9. Thomas Leuluai
10. Jesse Bromwich
11. Simon Mannering
12. Alex Glenn
13. Elijah Taylor
14. Manu Ma'u
15. Ben Matulino
16. Frank-Paul Nu'uausala
17. Sam Moa

NRL.com's Australian Test team

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