The Dragons' World Cup-winning halfback Benji Marshall has been left out of the New Zealand rugby league train-on squad for their tour of England and it's not because he's injured.
Marshall's NRL season ended when he left the field with an ankle injury in the St George Illawarra Dragons elimination playoff loss to the Canterbury Bulldogs on the weekend.
However, the Kiwis selectors confirmed that regardless of Marshall's fitness they were always going to leave him out.
They said they want to develop depth in the halves, with a view to the future.
Meanwhile, three more players have been added to the New Zealand train-on squad for the England tour in October-November.
Veteran Dragons NRL wing Jason Nightingale, South Sydney Rabbitohs hooker Issac Luke, and outside back Bryson Goodwin bring the training group to 18 players, after their teams were eliminated from the NRL finals over the weekend.
Defending champions South Sydney were overturned by the Cronulla Sharks, while the Dragons fell to the Bulldogs on an extra-time field goal.
The included trio have compiled 68 Tests in the black-and-white jersey - Goodwin 10, Luke 33 and Nightingale 25.
The latter two were part of this year's Anzac Test triumph over Australia, but Goodwin's last appearance was the 2013 Rugby League World Cup final.
The wider Kiwis group consists of about 40 players and more will be named over the next three weeks as their NRL seasons end.
Train-on camps will begin next week in Auckland and Sydney, with the 23-strong touring side to be announced soon after the NRL Premiership Grand Final on October 4th.
The full squad so far is:
Lewis Brown (Penrith Panthers), Manaia Cherrington (Wests Tigers), Kieran Foran (Manly Sea Eagles), Bryson Goodwin (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Peta Hiku (Manly Sea Eagles), Solomone Kata (NZ Warriors), Tuimoala Lolohea (NZ Warriors), Issac Luke (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Simon Mannering (NZ Warriors), Ben Matulino (NZ Warriors), Manu Ma'u (Parramatta Eels), Sam McKendry (Penrith Panthers), Jason Nightingale (St George Dragons), Tim Simona (Wests Tigers), Martin Taupau (Wests Tigers), Elijah Taylor (Penrith Panthers), Bodene Thompson (NZ Warriors), Dean Whare (Penrith Panthers)