11 Oct 2009

Four debutants in Kiwis side

2:12 pm on 11 October 2009

Four of the New Zealand league side's seven newcomers will make their international debuts in Wednesday night's one-off Test against Tonga at the Rotorua International Stadium.

Coach Stephen Kearney today named Newcastle centre Junior Sau, Bulldogs winger Bryson Goodwin and Sydney Roosters prop Frank-Paul Nuuausala in the starting line-up while Rotorua-born Jared Waerea-Hargreaves is included on the interchange bench.

Also named in the combination are two of the Kiwis' four players involved in last Sunday's NRL grand final. Premiership-winning Melbourne prop Jeff Lima is starting in the front row while his Storm team-mate Adam Blair is on the bench.

The match is important in terms of the Kiwis' preparation for their campaign in the inaugural Four Nations in England and France and it also serves as a build-up for Tonga's bid in the forthcoming Pacific Cup in Papua New Guinea.

The winner of that tournament will be the fourth side involved alongside the Kiwis, the Kangaroos and England in the 2010 Four Nations in New Zealand and Australia.

The Kiwis will defend the Peter Leitch QSM Challenge Trophy on Wednesday night, a trophy first contested when the New Zealanders met Tonga ahead of the World Cup last year; it will be at stake whenever New Zealand plays one of the Pacific nations.

Other features of the selection for the Test against Tonga are the pairing of Nathan Fien at halfback and captain Benji Marshall at standoff with Manly's Steve Matai recalled in the centres after missing the end of the World Cup tournament and this year's Anzac Test.

South Sydney's Issac Luke, who missed the Anzac Test through suspension, returns as the starting hooker while Wigan's Thomas Leuluai - the run-on dummy half in the 2008 World Cup final - is on the bench.

Returning after last playing for the Kiwis in the 2008 Centenary Test against Australia is Penrith back rower Frank Pritchard.