NZ Kiwis captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak will miss upcoming tests against Australia and Great Britain, but his absence opens a spot for Canberra Raiders bolter Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad.
Watene-Zelezniack led the New Zealand rugby league side to a 34-14 victory over Tonga in June, but went under the knife for minor knee surgery, once his Canterbury Bulldogs ended their 2019 NRL campaign.
- Tonga 'Invitational' side named for league tests
- Injury blow for Great Britain before Kiwis tour
- Tapine faces suspension from Kiwis league tests
The fullback-winger has lost his race to retain his spot on the squad, which offers a range of suitable replacements, with NZ Warriors skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck available and Raiders fullback Nicoll-Klokstad earning his first call-up for the Kiwis.
Nicoll-Klokstad has previously played international league for the Cook Islands, but was born in Auckland and is of Māori descent.
He began his NRL career with the Warriors, but moved to Canberra this season, where he quickly established himself in the No.1 jersey and helped them to last week's Grand Final.
Other features of the squad include:
- Three others in line for test debuts - Cronulla forward Braden Hamlin-Uele, Bulldogs second-rower Corey Harawira-Naera and Sydney Roosters forward Zane Tetevano
- Others unavailable through injury include prop Jesse Bromwich, centre Esan Marsters and back-rower James Fisher-Harris
- Winger Jordan Rapana, and second-rowers Kevin Proctor and Joseph Tapine are recalled, after missing the Tonga test
- Tapine will miss the test against Australia on October 25, after pleading guilty to a careless tackle during last weekend's NRL Grand Final and copping a one-game suspension
- Winger Jamayne Isaako returns to the Kiwis, after declaring allegiance to Samoa for the June tests
The Kiwis squad to face Australia and Great Britain are:
Hookers: Brandon Smith
Props: Leeson Ah Mau, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Braden Hamlin-Uele, Isaac Liu, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
Second Row: Kenny Bromwich, Corey Harawira-Naera, Briton Nikora, Kevin Proctor, Joseph Tapine, Zane Tetevano
Halves: Kieran Foran, Jahrome Hughes, Shaun Johnson, Benji Marshall
Centres: Joseph Manu
Wings: Jamayne Isaako, Ken Maumalo, Jordan Rapana
Fullbacks: Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
Join us on October 25 for live updates of the Kiwis v Australia rugby league test