Kearney on tough Kiwi calls

New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney has admitted that picking a side ahead of his team’s warm up clash against Toa Samoa on Saturday, “hasn’t been easy”.

Kearney has named a strong team which will include the likes of Roosters pairing Sean Kenny-Dowall, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Wests Tigers lynchpin Benji Marshall.

Kenny-Dowall will make his first appearance in a Kiwi jersey since 2007, while Warriors forward Simon Mannering returns to the international fold after a two year absence.

Mannering has however been named on the bench after battling a virus for the last two days.

Meanwhile, Kearney’s team will also feature Mannering’s clubmates Manu Vatuvei, Lance Hohaia and premiership-winning St George winger Jason Nightingale.

Wigan’s Thomas Leuluai replaces the injured Kieran Foran at halfback and Canterbury’s newest recruit Greg Eastwood starts at prop.

Benji Marshall will skipper the side.

“It hasn’t been an easy side to pick because this time we do have most of leading players available,” said Kearney.

“It means there is great competition for places and some players will be disappointed to miss out on a Test, especially one like this which is the first New Zealand has played against Samoa.

Tonga gave us a real challenge when we played them in Rotorua before last year’s Four Nations and, looking at the strength of Samoa’s side, we know we’ll be in for a tough night this week.

“That’s what we expect and what we need to ensure we’re in the best shape we can be for England (in Wellington) next weekend.”

New Zealand get their Four Nations campaign underway against England in Wellington on October 23, before meeting Papua New Guinea on October 30 and Australia on November 6.

NZ Kiwis team to face Toa Samoa:

Lance Hohaia (Warriors), Jason Nightingale (Dragons), Shaun Kenny-Dowall (Roosters), Junior Sa’u (Knights) , Manu Vatuvei (Vodafone Warriors) Benji Marshall – (Tigers), Thomas Leuluai (Wigan), Greg Eastwood (Leeds), Issac Luke (Rabbitohs), Adam Blair (Storm), Frank Pritchard (Panthers), Bronson Harrison (Raiders), Jeremy Smith (Dragons). Interchange (from): Nathan Fien (Dragons), Ben Matulino, (Warriors), Frank-Paul Nuuausala (Roosters), Simon Mannering (Warriors), Sika Manu (Storm), Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Roosters)

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