Kiwis and Storm back-rower Tohu Harris shows off his skills against Australia in the unfamiliar position of five-eighth during the Trans-Tasman Test.

Shifted Kiwi back-rowers show their spine

What do you get when you have two of the best up-and-coming back-rowers in the world at your disposal?

Usually you would be accustomed to having them on the edges and whacking them in the middle of the scrum, right? Wrong!

At least, that was the case for New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney in the Trans-Tasman Test, anyway.

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At the tender age of 22, both New Zealand Warriors player Ben Henry and Melbourne Storm's Tohu Harris found themselves in unfamiliar territory on Friday – and on the biggest stage rugby league has on offer.

With the likes of Issac Luke, Kieran Foran and Thomas Leuluai missing through their array of injuries, Henry and Harris – who weigh 210kg between them – made up half of the Kiwis' all important spine.

While Harris was a last-minute inclusion as starting five-eighth, Henry especially was thrown in the deep end after being named to play at hooker, a position he's never previously played, in what was his Test debut for the Kiwis.

"It was intense. It was everything I thought it was going to be. You've got superstars in the Australian side and people that you watch and model your footy after up against you and I was just overwhelmed and feeling blessed," Henry told NRL.com.

"I've never played hooker before. I think the closest I've been is when I go for a dummy-half scoot, so it was different but it was good. It was good to have Siliva [Havili in camp] too – we got to bounce a lot of ideas and tips and things to do."

While he'd never played hooker in any way, shape or form previously, Henry didn't have to think twice about doing so after getting the opportunity to play for the Kiwis for the first time.

"When I got the call back in New Zealand – I was just excited they even considered me to be in the team and you know he told he wanted me to play hooker and I was like, 'Cool, sweet'," he said.

"I didn't even think twice – but it did hit home during the week that I'd be passing the ball and stuff like that, so I'm just happy I got through with no injuries.

"I enjoy where [footy] ... has taken me this far and given me the chance to rub shoulders with Sam Moa and Jesse Bromwich and players that every kid wants to be with and be like, so it felt good.

"To be in the position I am now – in the black and white jersey – I never would've thought, so I think it's just a credit to coaches and the people in my life that have helped me along my rugby league path. I wouldn't be the person I am today without them."

With the likes of Australian representatives Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith at Melbourne's disposal, Harris doesn't often get a chance to express himself as a ball player, yet this may perhaps need to be reconsidered after acting as a magnificent foil for Kiwis halfback Shaun Johnson.

"It was good. It was a tough game. We were disappointed in the end result, we had a big opportunity to stay in the game but they're a great team and we just couldn't get there in the end," Harris explained to NRL.com.

"While I think Coops [Cronk] is pretty safe, I'm happy to play where ever the coach needs me and I just want to be on the field playing. [Kearney] wanted us to play with a lot of effort in the end and I think we did that for the most part."

With plenty of players not considered and others injured, Harris was thrown into the deep end against an unlikely opposite number in Johnathan Thurston.

With natural half Isaac John left on the interchange bench, Harris was shown faith by Kearney – something he never got last season when he was dropped from the World Cup squad after Sonny Bill Williams 'reconsidered' playing for the men across the ditch in last year's tour.

"I was excited. It's something that I haven't done since my school days I guess and I just wanted to jump into it straight away," Harris said.

"It was a good experience. All the boys made it easier for me and helped me prepare the best I can during the week."