After announcing three changes to his World Cup winning Australian team, Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens admitted he knew little of new Kiwis hooker Siliva Havili or some of the other members of a New Zealand squad containing just six survivors from the one beaten at Old Trafford last November.
Centre Jarryd Hayne (AC joint) was ruled out of the Australian team and forwards Andrew Fifita and Josh Papalii were dropped after failing to recapture the form that earned them places in the World Cup final, with Sheens calling up Josh Morris, Nate Myles and Boyd Cordner for next Friday night’s Test at Allianz Stadium.
However, there were even bigger shocks in the New Zealand team, with only captain Simon Mannering, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Dean Whare, Shaun Johnson, Sam Moa and Jesse Bromwich retaining their positions after the loss to Australia.
Hooker Issac Luke, five-eighth Keiran Foran, utility Thomas Leuluai and backrower Elijah Taylor were all ruled out with injury, while a number of players who didn’t feature in the World Cup final, such as Frank Pritchard, Jeremy Smith, Sam McKendry, Josh Hoffman and Jason Taumalolo, were also unavailable.
However, Sydney Roosters officials said Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Frank-Paul Nuuausala and Shaun Kenny-Dowall were all fit, while Brisbane’s Alex Glenn, Warriors trio Ben Matulino, Kevin Locke and Manu Vatuvei, Canterbury’s Sam Kasiano and Krisnan Inu and South Sydney’s Bryson Goodwin were also notable omissions.
Nuuausala tweeted: ‘‘For my lil brothers not making kiwis JWH n SKD are u for real ??’’
Among the six Kiwis Test debutants are Havili, who has played just three NRL games for the Warriors, and Penrith five-eighth Isaac John, who was plucked from the NSW Cup.
‘‘I think they have got some injuries and obviously they will be planning for the future,’’ Sheens said. ‘‘They will be enthusiastic and you can’t underestimate what comes out of New Zealand so we need to be on our game. I think with six debutants they will be busting to play well so it is going to be an intense game.’’
Asked what he knew about Havili, Sheens said: ‘‘It worries me when you don’t know much about someone and the national coach picks him to play for New Zealand. They obviously know the kid can play. You are not going to get picked in a Test match without having ability.’’
Despite being massive underdogs for the Test, Kearney said he had confidence in the players chosen. ‘‘We’re still very excited by the talent we have available,’’ Kearney said. ‘‘Many of these guys have progressed through Junior Kiwis and into full professional and now international careers.
‘‘There are also some old faces returning and we think this mix will bring a really positive energy to the group. This team is an Anzac story in itself – a band of young men thrown together to do whatever it takes to perform for 80 minutes on Friday night.’’
Sheens declined to say why Fifita and Papalli had been dropped but said Cordner and Myles had been members of the World Cup campaign and deserved their places.
Kangaroos team to play New Zealand at Allianz Stadium on Friday night: Billy Slater (Storm), Darius Boyd (Knights), Greg Inglis (Rabbitohs), Josh Morris (Bulldogs), Brett Morris (Dragons), Jonathan Thurston (Cowboys), Cooper Cronk (Storm), James Tamou (Cowboys), Cameron Smith (Storm), Matt Scott (Cowboys), Sam Thaiday (Broncos), Greg Bird (Titans), Paul Gallen (Sharks), Interchange: Daly Cherry-Evans, Nate Myles, Boyd Cordner, Corey Parker. 18th man: Matt Gillett.
New Zealand: (from) Gerard Beale, Adam Blair, Jesse Bromwich, Kenny Bromwich, Greg Eastwood, Tohu Harris, Siliva Havili, Ben Henry, Peta Hiku, Isaac John, Shaun Johnson, Simon Mannering, Sam Moa, Jason Nightingale, Kevin Proctor, Martin Taupau, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Dean Whare.