With plenty of chatter going on about Australia’s squad for the Four Nations, let’s cut through the glut and have a little look at what New Zealand have served us up.
Outside Backs: David Fusitu’a, Jordan Kahu, Jason Nightingale, Jordan Rapana, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
Centres: Gerard Beale, Solomone Kata, Shaun Kenny-Dowall
Five-Eighths: Thomas Leuluai, Te Maire Martin
Halfbacks: Shaun Johnson
Props: Jesse Bromwich, Adam Blair, Martin Taupau, Jared Warea-Hargreaves
Hookers: Issac Luke
Back Row: Lewis Brown, Greg Eastwood, Tohu Harris, Simon Mannering, Manu Ma’u, Kevin Proctor, Joseph Tapine, Jason Taumalolo
Unlucky to miss out: Josh Hoffman, Antonio Winterstein
Unfortunately for New Zealand, with no other Kiwi starting fullbacks in the league and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck still out with an ACL injury, Jordan Kahu will likely again be the one to step into the #1 jersey. Kahu was safe and solid for the ANZAC Test without being brilliant and saved the silver fern’s bacon on a number of occasions. With luck, he’ll step up another notch for the Four Nations, but don’t be surprised to see any of the other outside backs mentioned get a run here. Despite an inauspicious start to test football, expect to see Dallin Watene-Zelezniak get another go on the wing, hopefully looking more confident than he did in May. Jason Nightingale is all but certain to earn his 30th cap for NZ on the other flank. Injuries considered, both Josh Hoffman and Antonio Winterstein could have conceivably been selected, but weren’t. Perhaps Hoffman’s uncertain future in the code played a part here.
Likely starters: Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Gerard Beale
Unlucky to miss out: Bryson Goodwin, Tim Simona
It would be surprising to see any other centre pairing named here, with Shaun Kenny-Dowall being almost an automatic pick and Gerard Beale likely retaining his spot through injuries. Kenny-Dowall was one of the lone bright sparks for the Sydney Roosters this season, and always performs well for his country, whilst Gerard Beale also proved the latter in the ANZAC Test earlier this year. Much like Kahu, he was effective and safe without breaking the game open. Ditto with the outside backs, expect Solomone Kata to get a run against Scotland, if not even England. Bryson Goodwin and Tim Simona would’ve likely just missed out after fairly good seasons at their respective clubs.
Likely starter: Thomas Leuluai
Unlucky to miss out: Benji Marshall*, Corey Norman*
When it comes to this position on the field, “likely starter” means almost nothing, with the Kiwis trotting out a number of men in the number six jersey the past few years. Tohu Harris and Kodi Nikorima have been two makeshift test five-eighths for NZ in recent memory, and with Kieran Foran missing another test, I expect to see Thomas Leuluai earn his 35th test cap (35, can you believe that?) Of course, given their track record, we could see the impressive Te Maire Martin suit up a game, despite missing half the season due to injury, but Leuluai no doubt has the experience and guile for Test football. With their absences, New Zealand could’ve controversially selected Benji Marshall, or even tempted Corey Norman into committing his future to the land of the long white cloud.
Likely starter: Shaun Johnson
Unlucky to miss out: See above
With all the absentees, the Kiwis are lucky to not be missing this guy, with Shaun Johnson likely being the first, second or third name written down on the team sheet. The 2014 Golden Boot winner will have to step up this time around to propel his injury-hit nation to victory, but as history has shown, never write off NZ, and never tell Johnson what he can’t do.
Likely starters: Jesse Bromwich, Adam Blair
Bench options: Jared Warea-Hargreaves, Martin Taupau
Unlucky to miss out: Sam Moa, Sam Kasiano
With such a young and inexperienced backline, it would be a surprise to see New Zealand go away from captain Jesse Bromwich and the experienced Adam Blair, who always has his countries’ test dates circled on his calendar. Despite this same front row being vastly outplayed in May, both men have had good seasons, and plenty of finals football to adjust to the toughness of a Four Nations. Jared Warea-Hargreaves and Martin Taupau are perhaps the two best impact props in the game, and the Kiwis will gain a lot from them when they step onto the field. In particular, Taupau will look to build on an admirable test debut, and needs to find the balance between his desire to floor blokes and making a genuine set changing run up the middle of the park. Despite all his experience, Sam Moa heading overseas likely ruled him out for an 11th test appearance, and a nice bounce back year was not enough to regain a black jersey for Sam ‘Dogzilla’ Kasiano.
Bench options: Kevin Proctor, Manu Ma’u
Unlucky to miss out: Elijah Taylor, Zeb Taia
The one area where NZ likely have the wood over their trans-Tasman brothers is the back row, and boy they need to make sure of that. Simon Mannering’s leadership and experience were sorely missed in May, and New Zealand will be glad to have that back. Tohu Harris will (hopefully) enjoy returning to the back row for his country, and was admirable given the hand dealt to him back in May when he was shifted from the back row to five-eighth and then to centres. Jason Taumalolo was, alongside his captain, the Kiwis’ best forward last time around, and will look to build off that test with the help of a far stronger pack this time. Kevin Proctor was as good as always in the ANZAC Test, getting through plenty of work both offensively and defensively, and gained particular note for helping shut down his opposite number Josh Papalii, but will likely fall back to the bench with all three first choice options available. Ditto Manu Ma’u, who was mighty impressive on test debut, locking down Brisbane’s Matt Gillett and completing 36 tackles from 36 attempts. Impressive seasons from Elijah Taylor and Zeb Taia were unlucky to not be rewarded with a test nod.
Likely New Zealand Team
- Jordan Kahu
- Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
- Shaun Kenny-Dowall
- Gerard Beale
- Jason Nightingale
- Thomas Leuluai
- Shaun Johnson
- Jesse Bromwich
- Issac Luke
- Adam Blair
- Simon Mannering
- Tohu Harris
- Jason Taumalolo
- Kevin Proctor
- Manu Ma’u
- Jared Warea-Hargreaves
- Martin Taupau