In-form Benji no sure thing for Kiwis
Despite starting the season in near career-best form St George Illawarra playmaker Benji Marshall shouldn't hold his breath in regards to a Test recall next Friday.
The former Kiwi captain, who played the last of his 27 games for his country in 2012, has led the Dragons to a 5-2 start to the season, clocking up four try assists, nine tackle breaks and 59 average running metres along the way.
But Kiwis selector Richie Barnett has hinted that Marshall is still a way down the pecking order for the May 1 clash with the Kangaroos at Suncorp Stadium, even if incumbent standoff Kieran Foran isn't fit.
"I don't know actually [if Marshall would replace Foran], you have still got Thomas Leuluai who can play half or five-eighth and Issac Luke who can play a full 80 now in the No.9 jersey," Barnett told NRL.com.
"Those are the conversations we will have… depending how Kieran goes this weekend.
"As we say it's always a moving target... we will see what happens this weekend, anything is possible.
"I have been really impressed with Benji, he is in great shape and is certainly leading the way.
"He is back to the form we have seen over the past, he has a different mindset and you can see he has another year under his belt in the NRL.
"He is making it difficult for selectors to brush him aside, but his form warrants us to look at it deeper and see how it works in combination with everyone else; he is certainly making every post a winner."
Marshall isn't the only player back in the frame to earn a recall to the Kiwis after a long absence, with Raiders back-rower Iosia Soliola impressing since returning to the NRL this year.
Averaging 37 tackles and 119 run metres heading into round eight, Soliola wouldn't be out of place in the already star-studded Kiwi pack according to Barnett.
"He hasn't changed really since he was last in the NRL, he is more experienced, certainly brings grunt and certainly is a player who won't let you down," Barnett said of Soliola.
"The most difficult part for us is that we have a huge abundance of back-rowers and we always have had over the years.
"It's such a competitive area and the Kiwis are always so blessed around the back row and number 13."
With such a wealth of talent in the second row Barnett said it was likely some players would be asked to play out of position against Australia, but believed they would easily adapt to playing in the middle of the park as opposed to the edge.
"Most of those players are pretty much middle players anyway; nothing much is going to change.
"They tend to play that way – Tohu Harris can play on the edge but also play through the middle, 'JT' (Jason Taumalolo) is predominantly a 13 but still plays in the middle.
"Whoever you select they still have a role to play, it doesn't make a massive difference because they are adaptable.
"I've been hugely impressed with Marty Taupau, he has been the enforcer for the Tigers and a player who if you put him on the edge is just devastating with the way he runs.
"JT is in scintillating form at the moment too, I don't know how you tackle guys like that."
The Kiwis v Kangaroos match will be opened by clashes between the Australian Combined Armed Services and NZ Defence Force as well as the Kiwi Ferns and Australian Jillaroos.