Benji Marshall is close to making his first international appearance in seven years after being named in New Zealand’s extended squad to face Tonga.
The 34-year-old was named alongside Cronulla back-rower Briton Nikora, Melbourne star Jahrome Hughes and Canterbury half-back Kieran Foran in a strong squad ahead of this weekend’s round 14 NRL fixtures.
Marshall – who last played for the Kiwis in 2012 – is one of four playmakers in Michael Maguire’s squad along with Foran, New Zealand Warriors ace Kodi Nikorima and Cronulla star Shaun Johnson.
New Zealand face Tonga in the Oceania Cup at the Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday, June 22.
The squad will be cut down to 19 on Sunday following the conclusion of this weekend’s NRL fixtures.
Maguire commented: “We’re really pleased with the quality and form of the players we’ve been able to select.
“Nearly all of them have come through the Test we had against England in Denver last year and the matches against Australia and England later in the year. As a group we made a lot of progress and now it’s all about building on that.
“This Test against Tonga at Mount Smart is going to be a huge occasion and we can’t wait to be part of it.
“It kicks off what is a tremendous year for the international game with the introduction of the Oceania Cup competition, the Rugby League World Cup Nines and our series against the Great Britain Rugby League Lions.”
New Zealand Kiwis extended squad: Leeson Ah Mau, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Jesse Bromwich, Kenny Bromwich, James Fisher-Harris, Kieran Foran, Jahrome Hughes, Jamayne Isaako, Shaun Johnson, Isaac Liu, Issac Luke, Joseph Manu, Benji Marshall, Esan Marsters, Ken Maumalo, Briton Nikora, Kodi Nikorima, Agnatius Paasi, Isaiah Papali’i, Jordan Rapana, Brandon Smith, Joseph Tapine, Martin Taupau, Zane Tetevano, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak.