Seven debutants to run out for Kiwis in Denver
New Zealand players have put the disappointment of last year's World Cup campaign behind them and are treating the historic Test against England on Saturday (Sunday, 6am AEST) at Mile High Stadium as a fresh start, with seven debutants in the 17-man squad.
New Kiwis coach Michael Maguire will give centre Esan Marsters, wingers Jamayne Isaako and Ken Maumalo, second-rower Raymond Faitala-Mariner their first starts at Test level, while Slade Griffin, Leeson Au Mau and Herman Ese'ese are on the interchange bench.
With hooker Issac Luke - the team's unofficial leader - being overlooked for the World Cup, there are only seven survivors from the side which lost to Tonga and Fiji, and those players insist the Kiwis' quarter-final exit had not been discussed ahead of the Denver Test.
"We haven't really dwelled on the World Cup, I think that is something not to be spoken about," centre Peta Hiku said. "It is not something you want to be reminded of. Everyone wants to forget about that and start again.
"That sort of drives me, the way we finished. It is not where we should be or where we want to be and I will do everything I can to try and remove that mark."
Martin Taupau, who will the start the match at lock, said Maguire had told the players his focus was on the Denver Test and end-of-season Tests against Australia, England and France.
"We don't really want to touch on last year but what Madge has spoken about was just a new beginning, we want to create something new and special for us and restoring pride in the Kiwi jersey," Taupau said. "We want to get New Zealand back up to being the best of the best."
Prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves said: "That [question] is the first I have heard it mentioned. It's a fresh start and Madge is doing a great job, I am excited to play under him and so is everyone."
While some key players such as Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Shaun Johnson, Adam Blair and Jesse Bromwich were unavailable, Maguire said he had wanted to select a new look team for his first Test in charge of New Zealand.
"For me, it is a new era and it is a new start for everyone," he said. "Obviously, there is a lot that has gone on before me but it is up to us as a group as to how we are going to fix that and it starts on Saturday.
"We want to win and we're expecting that too - that is the expectations the New Zealand jersey should hold. It should be at the top of the tree and unfortunately for a little while it hasn't been.
"Sometimes when you bring in some hungry young men great things can happen and that is what we are after.
"If they gel, we have got a lot of speed on the edges and one reason I went with the younger boys is that they are excited, they are fast and if they can get a bit of momentum they are going to be strong and they are going to be tough to handle."
Tuivasa-Sheck, Johnson, Blair and Bromwich are expected to be available for the end-of-season Tests but Maguire said if the players in Denver had an opportunity to secure their spots.
"It is the first time for these boys under my reign so if they perform there is no reason I can't pick them moving forward," he said. "Obviously. I have got some really experienced guys sitting at home but these young men have chosen to come over here and take that opportunity."
Kiwis: 1 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 2 Jamayne Isaako, 3 Esan Marsters, 4 Peta Hiku, 5 Ken Maumalo, 6 Te Maire Martin, 7 Kodi Nikorima, 8 Jared Waerea-Hargeaves, 9 Issac Luke, 10 Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 15 Raymond Faitala-Mariner, 12 Joseph Tapine, 13 Martin Taupau. Interchange: 11 James Fisher-Harris, 14 Slade Griffin, 16 Herman Ese'ese, 17 Leeson Ah Mau. Reserves: 18 Jordan Kahu, 19 Isaac Liu.