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Alex Johnston is one of a number of fresh faces included in the Rabbitohs team for the Auckland Nines. Copyright: Col Whelan/NRL Photos
South Sydney coach Michael Maguire has sprung his first shock of the 2014 season by naming 18-year-old New Zealand import Irae Simone in his squad for the Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines.

Although there is not a Burgess in sight and Greg Inglis, Adam Reynolds and Issac Luke are other notable omissions, the name of Irae Simone will be the one most unfamiliar to Rabbitohs fans.

A product of the famed Mount Albert Grammar School in Auckland that boasts rugby league alumni such as Sonny Bill Williams, Steve Matai, Sam McKendry and Sam Kasiano, Simone was selected in the Auckland West under-18s rugby team in 2013 and is one of a number of fresh faces in the South Sydney line-up.

Alex Johnston, Cameron McInnes, Kyle Turner and Apisai Koroisau have all come through the Rabbitohs' under-20s ranks and Maguire is excited about seeing them perform on such a grand stage.

"They've been stepping up all pre-season," Maguire said of the young brigade. "To go over and play in the Nines and have a bit of youth there is going to be exciting.

"Alex Johnston is pretty quick so I'm looking forward to seeing him in a bit of space and young Irae is a young kid that's come in and is very exciting so looking forward to seeing how they go with a bit of extra space as well."

The inaugural winners of the Coca Cola World Sevens back in 1988, South Sydney's other surprise is that Ben Te'o – and not John Sutton – will have the honour of captaining the side, reward for increased responsibilities in the wake of the departure of a number of senior players in the off-season.

"There has been a lot of competition in the practice for the Nines and Benny pushed his name forward as a captain and he's really looking forward to it," said Maguire. "He's shown a lot of leadership around the place and it's just an opportunity for someone else to lead the team out.

"Johnny's obviously our team captain and is doing a great job with that but I think right across the board everyone is really standing up and we saw that with [Sunday's] trial."

The Rabbitohs are in the Red Pool along with the Dragons, Panthers and Storm and will kick-off their campaign with a clash with traditional rivals St George-Illawarra at 3.40pm local time.

Nathan Merritt, Beau Champion, Alex Johnston, Joel Reddy, Dylan Walker, Luke Keary, Apisai Koroisau, Dave Tyrrell, Irae Simone, Ben Lowe, Chris McQueen, Ben Te'o (c), John Sutton, Cameron McInnes, Kyle Turner, Lote Tuqiri.

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