The Kiwis World Cup hopes have been dealt a huge blow with Melbourne Storm premiership winner Tohu Harris set to miss the upcoming tournament through injury - and in another shock, veteran hooker Issac Luke has been dumped after a poor NRL season for the Warriors.
The Herald understands Harris's absence will be confirmed when the Kiwis 24-man squad is announced tomorrow, after struggling to overcome shoulder and foot injuries that dogged him throughout the year.
The 25-year-old missed the first two months of the season with a broken foot and was later sidelined with a rotator cuff injury, before returning to play a key part in the Storm's charge to the finals.
However, both injuries got progressively worse and limited Harris' ability to train each week before he limped into Sunday's 34-6 grand final win over North Queensland.
In his last appearance for Melbourne, the Warriors-bound forward turned in a typically tireless performance at ANZ Stadium and fired out a beautiful 25 metre pass for Josh Addo-Carr's second try in the 73rd minute.
Despite having given his all on his way to winning his first NRL title, Harris' body is in no condition to get through the six-week World Cup. He will now focus on recovering in time for his first season in Warriors colours.
Meanwhile, Luke is believed to have been overlooked, with Kiwis selectors opting to go with youth in the form of impressive 21-year-old Newcastle Knights hooker Danny Levi.
Veteran hooker Issac Luke has been overlooked for the World Cup. Photo / Photosport.
Former Kiwis skipper Simon Mannering will also be among the names read out, after selectors debated long and hard over whether to stick with the 31-year-old 42 test veteran.
Harris' omission likely made Mannering's inclusion an easy call - although most Kiwis fans would have considered the former Warriors leader's selection a no-brainer - and his experience will be invaluable to the side alongside new captain Adam Blair.
But the loss of Harris is significant, as the Kiwis are already down on troops, with his Storm teammate and former Kiwis captain and front-rower Jesse Bromwich and Gold Coast Titans back-rower Kevin Proctor banned from selection due to their involvement in the cocaine scandal that erupted following the Anzac test loss to Australia in Canberra in May.
Despite reports that Kidwell was under pressure to recall the pair, team management have stuck to their guns and left the duo out, as they set about trying to improve the Kiwis team culture.
It's understood Bromwich made contact with selectors in the last couple of days, reiterating the fact he respects their decision and offering his best wishes to the team and coaching staff.
Sydney Roosters front-rower Jared Waerea Hargreaves is another to miss out on a test recall after failing to impress in his side's grand final qualifying loss to the Cowboys.
It's better news for North Queensland young gun Te Maire Martin, with the 21-year-old five-eighth set to add to his lone test cap, after debuting off the bench in the 18-18 draw with Scotland during last year's Four Nations campaign.
Martin's inclusion caps a rollercoaster year for the Tokoroa-born playmaker, who was relegated to Penrith's reserve grade side in April before making a mid-season switch to the Cowboys on a three-year deal.
Cowboys five-eighth Te Maire Martin is in line to partner Shaun Johnson in the halves for the Kiwis. Photo / Getty Images.
He initially expected to get limited game time under Cowboys coach Paul Green, but a season-ending injury to captain Johnathan Thurston saw Martin thrust into the No6 role alongside fill-in halfback Michael Morgan.
In his first appearance for his new club, Martin scored two tries in North Queensland's 31-18 round 17 win over Canberra and grew in confidence throughout their against-the-odds climb from eighth spot into the premiership decider.
Martin crossed for the Cowboys lone four-pointer against Melbourne, and following the injury-enforced withdrawal of Kieran Foran, will be a leading contender to partner Warriors star and test incumbent Shaun Johnson in the halves for the Kiwis.
The Kiwis open their World Cup campaign against Samoa at Mt Smart Stadium on October 28, before completing the pool stage with matches against Scotland in Christchurch and Tonga in Hamilton.