Kiwis Test team named
An aura of uncertainty still surrounds the Kiwi rugby league team after coach Stephen Kearney named an 18-strong squad to take on Australia in Sydney on Friday.
The team features six newcomers in versatile Manly fullback Peta Hiku, five-eighth Isaac John, utility Ben Henry and hooker Siliva Havili, and props Martin Taupau and Kenny Bromwich.
Only five players - captain Simon Mannering, wing Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, centre Dean Whare, halfback Shaun Johnson and Jesse Bromwich - return from the team demolished 34-2 by the Kangaroos in last year's World Cup final.
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Kearney has every confidence in his rookies but says no decisions have yet been made as to who will play exactly where.
"We haven't 100 per cent made our minds up who will be in what position as yet," he said.
"A lot of our attacking raids will come from different areas of the park, it won't necessarily come from the nines."
Kearney said despite the lack of experience at dummy half, it was an exciting time for the Kiwis as injuries meant a chance for younger players to show their skills.
"Issac Luke hasn't missed many Test matches over the last six years, and with Tommy Leuluai out injured it's a chance for us to give these young guys an opportunity."
The squad also features the return of some familiar faces in veteran West Tigers forward Adam Blair, Saints winger Jason Nightingale and utility back Gerard Beale, and Kearney says the mix of youth and experience provide real excitement in the camp.
"Certainly the injuries have taken their toll over the selection process," he said.
"But with the future in mind, I know this bunch will give us a fresh new energy and real spirit, and that's what we're looking for on Friday night."
Former Kiwis captain Benji Marshall was not considered for selection, despite his Super Rugby season with the Blues being cut short by mutual consent last week.
Neither was cross-code superstar Sonny Bill Williams, who is returning to rugby union after this season.
Tohu Harris, the player forced out of the Kiwis at the World Cup after Williams' late change of heart to make himself available, returns to the New Zealand squad.
Kearney said Harris was focused on making the most of his chance.
"It's hard gauge with Tee, because he doesn't give you a great deal of emotion. But he was really pleased and excited, and he's looking forward to Friday night."GET YOUR TICKET TO THE TRANS-TASMAN TEST HERE
New Zealand team