The North Queensland Toyota Cowboys have named eight Rugby League World Cup representatives in their squad for the inaugural NRL Auckland Nines at Eden Park this weekend.
To be captained by Prime Minister’s XIII forward Gavin Cooper, the strong Cowboys lineup includes Kangaroos and NSW front-rower James Tamou, who will join Antonio Winterstein, Kane Linnett, Ray Thompson and Joel Riethmuller in seeing their first on-field action of the 2014 season.
Fellow World Cup Cowboys Jason Taumalolo, Tariq Sims and Rory Kostjasyn will back up after playing in Saturday night’s 32-8 trial match victory against Brisbane at Dolphin Oval in Redcliffe.
Coach Paul Green’s 16-man squad also features recent NYC graduates Zac Santo and Javid Bowen as well as new fullback Lachlan Coote.
It will be Cooper’s debut as a Cowboys captain with regular co-captains Matt Scott and Johnathan Thurston, along with fellow Kangaroos representative Brent Tate, rested from the Nines after their hectic 2013 season and late start to pre-season for 2014.
North Queensland have been drawn in the same pool as Canberra, Manly and NZ Warriors with the top two teams to advance to the quarter-final stage.
The Cowboys will leave for New Zealand just before lunchtime on Wednesday and will arrive in Auckland just before midnight.
On their schedule is a visit to the Glenora Bears in west Auckland on Thursday afternoon as well as the Nines civic reception at Aotea Square from 12.15pm on Friday.
COWBOYS SQUAD: 1 Lachlan Coote, 2 Zac Santo, 3 Antonio Winterstein, 4 Kane Linnett, 5 Javid Bowen, 6 Michael Morgan, 7 Robert Lui, 8 Jason Taumalolo, 9 Ray Thompson, 10 James Tamou, 11 Gavin Cooper, 12 Tariq Sims, 13 Joel Riethmuller, 14 Rory Kostjasyn, 15 Kyle Feldt, 16 Curtis Rona.