Kiwis to field 'best 17' in opener
Kiwis coach David Kidwell has gone straight for his first-choice team for New Zealand's first World Cup match against Samoa on Saturday night in Auckland.
The team includes Brad Takairangi, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Isaac Liu and Danny Levi, who will make their first appearance for the Kiwis, but Kidwell insisted the Test rookies were picked on merit rather than the game being an opportunity to blood them for later in the tournament.
"At this stage it is, yeah definitely [it's my best team]," Kidwell said.
"I didn't have a team in mind at the start of the tournament to be honest because I wanted to see how everyone came together, that was the most important thing.
"I'm not looking beyond Samoa.
"Even though [there are players] making their debut, the boys have the trust that these guys are able to come in and do the job against Samoa on Saturday."
Despite Te Maire Martin helping guide the North Queensland Cowboys through to the NRL Telstra Premiership Grand Final less than a month ago, Kidwell has opted to play Kodi Nikorima at five-eighth, while Takairangi gets the nod at centre ahead of Peta Hiku and Dean Whare.
"That was a really tough call, obviously Te Maire came off playing in the grand final, but Kodi wants it. I said to him that at times he is going to have to take ownership of the team, he wanted to step up and do it," Kidwell said.
Meanwhile hooker Thomas Leuluai said there were no concerns over a lack of experience in the squad, which includes there being just three Test caps across all four players named on the interchange.
"We have still got a lot of experience there too, it doesn't feel like we are missing experience and at training the talk is still there," Leuluai said.
"Guys are professional and have been playing for a long time… you have got young guys who [have been] playing three or four NRL seasons now, so they are already quiet professional in what they do and know their roles."
New Zealand side to face Samoa
1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
2. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
3. Gerard Beale
4. Brad Takairangi
5. Jordan Rapana
6. Kodi Nikorima
7. Shaun Johnson
8. Martin Taupau
9. Thomas Leuluai
10. Adam Blair (c)
11. Kenny Browmich
12. Joseph Tapine
13. Simon Mannering
14. Nelson Asofa-Solomona
15. Russell Packer
16. Isaac Liu
17. Danny Levi