Wigan forward Willie Isa to play for New Zealand in World Cup warm-up

Willie Isa Wigan Warriors

Wigan forward Willie Isa will pull on the black and white jersey of New Zealand on for the first time on Saturday when they face Leeds in a World Cup warm-up match.

The 33-year-old was born in Auckland, New Zealand before his family moved to Sydney, Australia when he was one-year-old.

Isa is of Samoan heritage and made his international debut for Samoa in 2010 whilst he was playing for Melbourne Storm in the NRL.

Isa’s Wigan team-mate Tommy Leuluai will bring down the curtain on his stellar 20-year playing career when the Kiwis face Leeds at Headingley.

It will be Leuluai’s 40th game for New Zealand. He helped his country lift the World Cup in 2008, and played in three World Cups. Leuluai will join Wigan’s coaching staff after his final game on Saturday.

KIWIS: Six NRL Grand Finalists included in New Zealand squad for World Cup

Dean Whare to join Willie Isa and Tommy Leuluai in Kiwi jumpers

Also linking up with New Zealand just for the Leeds match is Catalans Dragons centre Dean Whare. The 32-year-old won 19 caps for the Kiwis between 2012-17, playing in two World Cups.

Michael Maguire’s side will be without six players for the Leeds game as they featured in Sunday’s NRL Grand Final – James Fisher-Harris, Moses Leota, Scott Sorensen (all Panthers) and Dylan Brown, Isaiah Papali’i and Marata Niukore (all Eels).

The six players are due to arrive in Leeds on Saturday but won’t feature in the warm-up game against the Rhinos.

The Kiwis squad, minus the six NRL Grand Finalists, trained together in Sydney last week. The advance party of 18 players plus staff flew to England on Friday.

Australian forward Adam Cuthbertson will play one final game for Leeds which will mark the end of his playing career. He helped the Rhinos win the treble in 2015 as well as winning a further Grand Final (2017) and Challenge Cup (2020).

New Zealand are in a group alongside Ireland, Lebanon and Jamaica. They start their World Cup campaign against Lebanon at The Halliwell Jones Stadium in Warrington on Sunday, October 16.

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About Drew Darbyshire 8536 Articles
Love Rugby League Deputy Editor. Joined the site ahead of the 2017 World Cup and been a full-time reporter since 2018.

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