Four NZ Kiwis newcomers are poised to make their debuts for the national team in their England tour warm-up game against Leeds Rhinos on Saturday morning (NZ time).
Utility Jordan Kahu will line up in the centres and Tuimoala Lolohea at half, with Kodi Nikorima and Sio Siua Taukeiaho set to come off the bench against the English triple-crown winners.
Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney has named 20 players and both sides will run extended 19-man rotations for the game, which will double as a hit-out for the Kiwis ahead of their three-test series against England and a celebration for the Leeds Rhinos, after their tremendously successful domestic campaign.
Kearney has gone for a new pairing of Lolohea and utility Peta Hiku in the halves.
“This will be an opportunity for those two halves to build combinations with the group around them,” says Kearney.
“We also have guys that haven’t played since the last round of the NRL, so this is a chance for them to blow out some cobwebs.”
The Leeds Rhinos have taken out the League Leaders Shield, Challenge Cup and Super League Trophy this season, and will present a tough proposition for the visitors, even with three of their stars on duty with the England squad.
This game will also mark the final appearances of stalwarts Jamie Peacock, Kevin Sinfield and Kylie Leuluai for Leeds, who have also brought former Rhinos Ali Lauitiiti and Adrian Morley back to the club for the occasion.
“This will be perfect preparation for us,” says Kearney. “Leeds will be honouring some pretty special players and they’re expecting a full house.
“We’re very aware of the history of this match, with the 1907 All Golds playing Leeds in their build-up to a test series, so for me, this is an historic occasion in that sense too.”
Local officials are indeed predicting a sell-out at Headingley Carnegie.
The NZ Kiwis line-up for their game against Leeds Rhinos, scheduled for 8pm Friday (8am Saturday NZ) is:
Sio Siua Taukeiaho