The Kiwis have named a depleted squad with five debutants for the Rugby League World Cup.
Kiwis coach David Kidwell was dealt a major blow yesterday when North Queensland Cowboys prop Jason Taumalolo withdrew from the Kiwis to play for Tonga.
Taumalolo's withdrawal rocked the Kiwis' preparation following news yesterday that Melbourne premiership winner Tohu Harris will miss the tournament due to injury, which also followed confirmation last week that Kieran Foran had also withdrawn from the tournament to focus recovering from an injury-riddled season.
The 2016 Dally M Medallist has been unstoppable for the Cowboys this year, running more than 5000m this season.
Tongan Rugby League World Cup Squad. Includes eligible Kiwis; Jason Taumalolo, David Fusitua, Manu Ma'u and Sio Siua Taukieaho pic.twitter.com/ap987zJxfr— Radio Sport (@radiosportnz) October 4, 2017
Harris struggled to overcome shoulder and foot injuries that dogged him throughout the year, thus being unavailable, while in another shock, veteran hooker Issac Luke has been dumped after a poor NRL season for the Warriors.
As a result, there are several new faces in the squad. Nelson Asofa-Solomona will debut, as will Addin Fonua-Blake, Danny Levi, Isaac Liu and Brad Takairangi.
The 2008 World Cup champions open the tournament against Samoa on October 28.
Kiws squad: Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Gerard Beale, Adam Blair, Kenny Bromwich, Addin Fonua-Blake, Peta Hiku, Shaun Johnson, Thomas Leuliuai, Danny Levi, Isaac Liu, Simon Mannering, Te Maire Martin, Jason Nightingale, Kodi Nikorima, Russell Packer, Jordan Rapana, Brad Takairangi, Joseph Tapine, Martin Taupau, Elijah Taylor, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Dean Whare.