Rabbitohs Hooker, Issac Luke, has earned himself selection in the New Zealand Kiwis’ ANZAC Test side to play Australia during the representative round.
Luke’s selection will result in his 33rd appearance for the Kiwis, with the hooker set to start the match wearing the familiar number nine jersey.
Coach Stephen Kearney has named his 18 players to prepare for the traditional one-off encounter at Suncorp Stadium, with Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Dallin Watene-Zelzniak, Ben Matulino and Sam Moa returning to the fold.
Tuivasa-Sheck was unavailable for the end-of-season internationals, but has hit top form in his new role as Sydney Roosters fullback.
Teenage sensation Watene-Zelezniak was actually named to make his Kiwis debut on the wing in the Four Nations opener, but broke a bone in his foot during the team’s build-up for that game and could play no further part in the tournament.
A variety of injuries kept Matulino out of the Kiwis programme last year, while Moa withdrew from Four Nations consideration due to family illness.
“All of these players have been in good form so far this season and really put their hands up for inclusion in this Anzac Test side,” says Kearney. “It’s a sign that we are developing some great young talent and good depth in certain positions.”
But the group has also suffered a couple of setbacks over the weekend, with news that Four Nations mainstays Dean Whare and Jason Taumalolo would not be available through injury.
Whare has nursed a hamstring strain for several weeks and could not take the field for Penrith Panthers tonight, while Taumalolo left the field early in North Queensland’s win over Newcastle yesterday with a knee injury.
“It’s disappointing to lose those lads, but that’s the nature of the game sometimes,” says Kearney. “We wish them both a speedy recovery and we have total confidence in the players that take the field on Friday night,” says Kearney.
“We believe this team is capable of a job for us this week and it’s also an opportunity to take another step towards our ultimate goal – the 2017 World Cup.”
The full NZ Kiwis squad for Friday’s Anzac Test is Jesse Bromwich (Melbourne Storm), Lewis Brown (Penrith Panthers), Greg Eastwood (Canterbury Bulldogs), Kieran Foran (Manly Sea Eagles), Tohu Harris (Melbourne Storm), Peta Hiku (Manly Sea Eagles), Shaun Johnson (NZ Warriors), Shaun Kenny-Dowall (Sydney Roosters), Thomas Leuluai (NZ Warriors), Issac Luke (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Simon Mannering (NZ Warriors), Ben Matulino (ZN Warriors), Sam Moa (Sydney Roosters), Kevin Proctor (Melbourne Storm), Matin Taupau (Wests Tigers), Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Sydney Roosters), Manu Vatuvei (NZ Warriors) and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (Penrith Panthers).