Canberra winger Jordan Rapana and Warriors centre Solomone Kata have been rewarded for outstanding 2016 NRL campaigns with their maiden New Zealand Test jumpers, named as the only two debutants in new coach David Kidwell’s first Kiwis line-up.
Rapana (Cook Islands) and Kata (Tonga) have represented at international level before, but the opportunity to take on the Kangaroos in Perth on Saturday represents a major career milestone for the breakout duo.
After scoring a club-record 23 tries in the Raiders’ stunning surge this season, Rapana ousted incumbent Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and fellow Kiwis newcomer David Fusitu’a for the right-wing spot, while veteran Jason Nightingale will line up outside Kata on the left flank.
Kata grabbed a spot ahead of the experienced Gerard Beale, who was named on an extended bench along with uncapped Raiders backrower Joseph Tapine.
— Bill Ballentine (@billballentine) October 11, 2016
Warriors teammates Shaun Johnson, Thomas Leuluai and Issac Luke link up in the spine with Brisbane utility-back Jordan Kahu, who was the Kiwis’ best with a phenomenal defensive display at fullback in the Anzac Test loss to Australia in May.
Sydney Roosters enforcer Jared Waerea-Hargreaves – a veteran of 16 Tests – makes his first appearance since the 2013 World Cup final, back from the international wilderness and straight into the starting front-row alongside captain Jesse Bromwich.
Adam Blair and Martin Taupau provide middle cover on the bench.
Former skipper Simon Mannering will miss the clash due to ongoing recovery from minor knee surgery, which allows Melbourne pair Kevin Proctor and Tohu Harris to start in the second-row, with joint Dally M Player of the Year Jason Taumalolo an automatic pick in the No.13.
Lewis Brown nabs the bench utility role, while Parramatta’s player of the year Manu Ma’u, who debuted for the Kiwis in May, is the other interchange player.
With Mannering unavailable, and Tapine and Beale 18th and 19th man respectively, the only members of the 24-man squad left out are Watene-Zeleniak, Fusitu’a, Greg Eastwood and Penrith rookie Te Maire Martin.
— NZ Rugby League (@NZRL_Kiwis) October 11, 2016
KIWIS LINE-UP TO PLAY KANGAROOS
1 Jordan Kahu
2 Jason Nightingale
3 Solomone Kata
4 Shaun Kenny-Dowall
5 Jordan Rapana
6 Thomas Leuluai
7 Shaun Johnson
8 Jesse Bromwich (c)
9 Issac Luke
10 Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
11 Kevin Proctor
12 Tohu Harris
13 Jason Taumalolo
14 Lewis Brown
15 Martin Taupau
16 Manu Ma’u
17 Adam Blair
18 Joseph Tapine
19 Gerard Beale