Blockbusting Toyota Cowboys forward Jason Taumalolo has been named for his NZ Kiwis debut in the 2014 Four Nations opener against Australia at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium on Saturday.
Teenage wing Dallin Watene-Zelezniak will also play his first game in a Kiwis jumper, while coach Stephen Kearney has reunited Kieran Foran and Shaun Johnson in the halves, with veteran utility Thomas Leuluai starting at hooker.
Taumalolo finally gets his chance to take the field for the Kiwis, after filling a non-playing role at the 2012 Anzac Test.
“His performances over the past year, but particularly over the last two months of the NRL, have been very consistent,” says Kearney.
“Jason’s always been there or thereabouts. He had an opportunity to get picked for the Anzac Test before he injured a shoulder and he’s also been a Junior Kiwi.”
Watene-Zelezniak’s inclusion is subject to a fitness test on a foot injury picked up in training early this week.
“Dallin is an exciting young prospect, who we think will play many tests for the Kiwis in the future,” says Kearney. “He’s brought a lot of youthful energy to the camp this week, but we’ll have to wait and see how his foot mends up.”
Utility Lewis Brown also returns to the side, coming off the bench, after a three-year absence.
The full lineup for Saturday’s encounter at 6.45pm (Qld) is:
1 Peta Hiku, 2 Jason Nightingale, 3 Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 4 Dean Whare, 5 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 6 Kieran Foran, 7 Shaun Johnson, 8 Jesse Bromwich, 9 Thomas Leuluai, 10 Adam Blair, 11 Simon Mannering (captain), 12 Kevin Proctor, 13 Jason Taumalolo. Interchange: 14 Lewis Brown, 15 Greg Eastwood, 16 Martin Taupau, 17 Tohu Harris, 18 Suaia Matagi.