Luke axed from Kiwis

New Zealand captain Isaac Luke has been dropped from the Kiwi team to face Australia in the Anzac Test.

Luke, who was co-captain with Adam Blair in last year’s series with England, has been axed because of poor form since his arrival at the New Zealand Warriors.

Melbourne’s Jesse Bromwich has been promoted to captain for the first time in place of the injured Simon Mannering and Blair.

Luke’s berth at hooker is set to be filled by 22-year-old Brisbane utility Kodi Nikorima, who was the starting halfback for the last two Tests of the England series.

Uncapped Newcastle hooker Danny Levi has been named as 19th man in the only specialist hooker cover.

There are two uncapped players in the 18-man squad – Penrith winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Parramatta second rower Manu Ma’u.

Watene-Zelezniak, 20, will hope it’s third time lucky after being named in Kiwi squads twice previously.

The great grandson of New Zealand rugby league great Steve Watene was denied a starting spot by injury in 2014 and suspension last year. He also missed the 2015 England tour with a collapsed lung.

Kearney says the time is right to promote classy 17-Test forward Bromwich to a leadership role.

“You just need to look at Jesse’s performances over the past two years, when he’s elevated himself to one of the premier front rowers in our game and at international level,” he said said.

“We certainly saw that in England, where Adam Blair and Issac Luke were our captains, but Jesse was part of the leadership group and really stepped up to the plate.”

Halfback Shaun Johnson, who missed the England tour with injury, is the only Warriors player in the 18-man squad following the axing of Luke and omission of prop Ben Matulino and winger Manu Vatuvei for a breach of the club’s protocols.

Matulino and Vatuvei started last year’s equivalent Test in Brisbane, which the Kiwis won 26-12, part of a current three-match streak against the Kangaroos.

Other leading lights are missing from that game include injured Warriors Mannering and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, along with five-eighth Kieran Foran, for personal reasons. Penrith centre Dean Whare is another notable absentee with a season-ending knee injury.

Foran’s berth is likely to be filled by Hiku, as he did in England.

North Queensland wrecking ball Jason Taumalolo makes a welcome return after missing all of the 2015 Tests.

Kiwis squad

Jesse Bromwich (captain, Melbourne Storm)
Adam Blair (Brisbane Broncos)
Lewis Brown (Manly Sea Eagles)
Greg Eastwood (Canterbury Bulldogs)
Alex Glenn (Brisbane Broncos)
Tohu Harris (Melbourne Storm)
Peta Hiku (Penrith Panthers)
Shaun Johnson (NZ Warriors)
Jordan Kahu (Brisbane Broncos)
Shaun Kenny-Dowall (Sydney Roosters)
Manu Ma’u (Parramatta Eels)
Sam Moa (Sydney Roosters)
Jason Nightingale (St George Dragons)
Kodi Nikorima (Brisbane Broncos)
Kevin Proctor (Melbourne Storm)
Jason Taumalolo (North Queensland Cowboys)
Martin Taupau (Manly Sea Eagles)
Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (Penrith Panthers)
Danny Levi (19th man, Newcastle Knights)

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