An array of former Kiwi Test players as well as dual Australian international Timana Tahu feature in the teams named today by Samoa and New Zealand Maori for a Mount Smart Stadium doubleheader on Saturday week (October 16).
In the build-up to the 2010 Four Nations starting a week later, the Kiwis will prepare with their first-ever Test against Samoa while England will warm-up by taking on the Maori in the curtain-raiser.
Seven former Kiwis have been included in the Samoan side announced today by coach Steve Price, assistant coach this year of the NRL premiership-winning St George Illawarra Dragons.
Heading the list are England-based professionals and long-serving Kiwi internationals Tony Puletua, Ali Lauitiiti and Francis Meli while other former Kiwis named are David Solomona, Ben Roberts, David Faiumu and Harrison Hansen. One-Test Kiwi Hansen was in Wigan’s Super League grand final-winning side at Old Trafford last Saturday while Puletua and Meli were both in the beaten St Helens side.
Six of them were involved in Samoa’s 2008 World Cup campaign in Australia as were others included in the squad today such as Wigan centre George Carmont, Manly hooker Terence Seuseu and Penrith forward Joseph Paulo.
Also named are promising NRL players in Canberra winger Daniel Vidot and Brisbane front rower Josh McGuire.
Big names and exciting young talent also abound in the Maori team named by New Zealand Maori Rugby League chairman Howie Tamati. New Zealand-eligible Tahu opted to play rugby league for Australia – and later rugby league as well – turning down the chance to represent New Zealand. He indicated only recently that he wanted to play for the Maori and has today been included in a potent and highly-experienced centres pairing with long-time New Zealand and Vodafone Warriors star Clinton Toopi. Toopi played the last of his 22 Tests for the Kiwis in 2007 and this year revived his NRL career with the Gold Coast Titans.
Selected at halfback for the Maori is former South Sydney halfback, who has been with Salford in the Super League and is now signed with Wakefield. He made his Test debut against Australia in 2007 and then toured England and France.
Vodafone Warriors hooker Aaron Heremaia, who made his Kiwi debut in this year’s Anzac Test, is the other New Zealand international included along with his club-mate Kevin Locke. Named at fullback, Locke was in New Zealand’s Four Nations squad last year but didn’t play a game. The rest of the Maori squad is almost totally made up of NRL and Super League players including Penrith winger Sandor Earl, Arana Taumata – who has recently finished with North Queensland – and Castleford’s Rangi Chase at standoff.
Among the forwards are Vodafone Warriors prop Russell Packer and Penrith front rower Sam McKendry, both rated by Kiwi coach Stephen Kearney as unlucky to miss out on the Four Nations squad. Also included is exciting Parramatta back rower Justin Horo, former Eels forward Weller Hauraki, now with the Crusaders in the English Super League, plus Melbourne’s Kevin Proctor, Gold Coast’s Bodene Thompson and North Queensland’s James Tamou.
Only 16 players were named but it’s expected a player from the Kiwis will be released to appear for the Maori.
There’s ample ex-Kiwi experience in the support staff with Richie Blackmore as coach, Mark Horo – Justin’s father – as assistant. Among the rest of the management team are Tamati, Sam Stewart and Wairangi Koopu.
On Saturday week, the Kiwis play Samoa at 7.30pm with England facing the Maori at 5.30pm. Go to www.nzrl.co.nz for ticket information. The Samoa team is due to arrive at Auckland International Airport on NZ0102 at 7.00pm on Sunday (October 10).
The Samoa and Maori teams named today are:
SAMOA: Tony Puletua (St Helens), Francis Meli (St Helens), Ali Lauitiiti (Leeds), David Faiumu (Huddersfield), David Solomona (Warrington), George Carmont (Wigan), Harrison Hansen (Wigan), Ben Roberts (Canterbury-Bankstown), Constantine Mika (Newcastle), Mark Taufua (Newcastle), Joseph Paulo (Penrith), Masada Iosefa (Penrith), Terence Seuseu (Manly), Willie Isa (Melbourne), Daniel Vidot (Canberra), Josh McGuire (Brisbane), Taulima Tautai (Cronulla), Quentin Togaga’e (Souths Logan), Frank Winterstein (Crusaders). One player to be named from Samoa domestic players: Tupu Ulufale, Tanielu Pasene, Vailoa Kereti, David Masoe,
Coach: Steve Price.
NEW ZEALAND MAORI: Kevin Locke (Vodafone Warriors), Sandor Earl (Penrith), Timana Tahu (Parramatta), Clinton Toopi (Gold Coast), Arana J Taumata (North Queensland), Rangi Chase (Castleford), Jeremy Smith (Wakefield), Willie Heta (Otahuhu), Aaron Heremaia (Vodafone Warriors), Weller Hauraki (Crusaders), Justin Horo (Parramatta), Bodene Thompson (Gold Coast), Kevin Proctor (Melbourne), James Tamou (North Queensland), Sam McKendry (Penrith), Russell Packer (Vodafone Warriors). One player to be added from Kiwis.
Coach: Richie Blackmore.