The Kiwis have locked in six key players involved in last night's NRL Grand Final for their Rugby League World Cup campaign but just one Warrior will feature following the axing of Shaun Johnson from the squad.
Kiwis coach Michael Maguire named his 24-man squad for this year's tournament in the UK following last night's showpiece match which the Panthers won 28-12 for back-to-back NRL titles.
Three Penrith players feature in Maguire's squad as well as a Paramatta trio with champions James Fisher-Harris, Moses Leota and Scott Sorensen named alongside Dylan Brown, Isaiah Papali’i and Marata Niukore.
All six featured in the Kiwis’ extended squad in June who played against Mate Ma’a Tonga; a match which saw Brown, Niukore and Leota make their New Zealand Test debuts alongside the previously capped Fisher-Harris and Papali’i while Sorensen was on the extended bench.
One player from the June squad axed was Warriors veteran Shaun Johnson, leaving Dallin Watene-Zelezniak as the only player from the New Zealand NRL club to make the team.
“Selecting the squad for the World Cup was a real challenge given the quality of players in contention,” Maguire said.
“There were some tough calls to make but we’re excited about the group we’ve settled on.
“These players have all been impressive for their clubs this season, not least James (Fisher-Harris), Moses (Leota) and Scott (Sorensen) who were all outstanding for Penrith in the grand final.”
Joining last night's finalists are returning seasoned middle forwards Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Isaac Liu as well as Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, who is rejoining the Warriors next season.
Waerea-Hargreaves and 2019 Kiwi Nicoll-Klokstad were unavailable for the Tonga Test due to injury while Liu, after being originally selected, remained in Australia to be with his wife for the birth of the couple’s second child.
Another player making a return is uncapped Bulldogs hooker Jeremy Marshall-King who is joined by the only new face in the squad in Canberra centre Sebastian Kris, who was born in Brisbane but is of New Zealand descent through his Huntly-raised mother.
After assembling in the UK, the Kiwis will base themselves in York for the World Cup with their opening Pool C match against Lebanon in Warrington on October 16, followed by Jamaica in Hull on October 22 and Ireland in Leeds on October 28.
The quarter-finals are scheduled for November 4, 5 and 6, the semifinals on November 11 and 12 and the final at Old Trafford in Manchester on November 19.
Kiwis RLWC Squad
Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Jesse Bromwich, Kenneath Bromwich, Dylan Brown, James Fisher-Harris, Kieran Foran, Peta Hiku, Jahrome Hughes, Sebastian Kris, Moses Leota, Isaac Liu, Joseph Manu, Jeremy Marshall-King, Ronaldo Mulitalo, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Briton Nikora, Marata Niukore, Isaiah Papali'i, Jordan Rapana, Brandon Smith, Scott Sorensen, Joseph Tapine, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak.