June 22, 2022
Four players are set for their Test debuts when the Kiwis face Mate Ma’a Tonga in New Zealand’s first international in more than two and a half years at Mount Smart Stadium on Saturday night.
Of the eight new faces included in the wider squad this week, Parramatta duo Dylan Brown and Marata Niukore plus Cronulla Sutherland winger Ronaldo Mulitalo and Penrith prop Moses Leota will all play their first Test for the Kiwis.
Brown is paired in the halves with outstanding Melbourne halfback Jahrome Hughes while Niukore is named in the centres with the experienced Peta Hiku and Leota is on a potent bench.
In other selection features head coach Michael Maguire has selected the versatile Joseph Manu at fullback while in-form Parramatta second rower Isaiah Papali’i, who made his debut off the bench for the Kiwis in England 2018, is a starter in his second Test more than three and half years later.
Included on the interchange is 31-yeard-old Manly Warringah half Kieran Foran who makes another international comeback after overcoming adversity.
His return from a two-year absence in 2019 was cruelly ended by a dislocated shoulder just six minutes into the Kiwis’ first Test against Great Britain at Eden Park.
“It’s an exciting time for everyone involved having international rugby league back on deck after so long,” said Maguire.
“There’s a real buzz among the players for what is such a significant occasion for the Kiwi jersey and for the game as a whole.
“We’ve been able to bring together a group of players who have been in tremendous form so far this season and they’re desperate to do well for their country.
“It’s a special thrill giving debuts to Dylan, Marata, Ronaldo and Moses. They really deserve this opportunity.”
Newly-appointed captain Jesse Bromwich is the team’s most experienced player as he eyes his 30th Test match while Foran will play his 23rd since his debut in 2009.
Please click here for tickets to Kiwis v MMT on June 25 at Mount Smart Stadium.
NEW ZEALAND KIWIS v MATE M’A TONGA
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
5.20pm, Saturday, June 25, 2022