Ben Francis: Who would make Kiwis 2020 'paper' test team

OPINION: Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the NZ Kiwis will play no tests in 2020, a huge blow for international rugby league a year out from the next World Cup. 

The Kiwis were due to play Tonga in June and Fiji in October as part of the Oceania Cup, but those games were cancelled and while travel bubbles are on the way, NZ Rugby League chief executive Greg Peters has already shut down talks of potential tests. 

Peters hopes the national side can play next June, with the World Cup scheduled for England in October. 

But what if the Kiwis were to play this year? Who would coach Michael Maguire select in his side? 

Based on form during the 2020 NRL season, previous captains Benji Marshall and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak would likely miss out on the matchday 17 - and likely the squad altogether - while veteran forward Adam Blair has retired and star playmaker Shaun Johnson is out injured. 

That leaves the door open for new players to come into the squad and old faces to return.  

1-Roger Tuivasa-Sheck

No brainer here, with the NZ Warriors skipper being the most dominant Kiwi from the back this NRL season, where he led the competition in run metres with 3974. 

2-Ken Maumalo 

While Maumalo hasn't played since July, he is still one of the best wingers in the game and hard to leave out of any side. 

3-Peta Hiku

A strong second half to the season likely pushed Hiku into contention for a return to the black jersey, where he hasn't played since 2018. 

Peta Hiku in action against Scotland at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.
Peta Hiku in action against Scotland at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup. Photo credit: Photosport

4-Joseph Manu 

Arguably the form centre this NRL season, Manu has had some of his best games in a Kiwis jersey and is often strong on both sides of the ball when representing his country. 

5-Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad

The Raiders flyer has played all his tests in the centres, but Hiku's return and the 

demotion of Jamayne Isaako sees Nicoll-Klodstad shift to the wing, where safety under the high ball is paramount.

6-Jarome Luai

Born in Sydney, Luai is eligible for the Kiwis, and he's reportedly torn between playing for Samoa or New Zealand. 

The 2017 Junior Kiwis captain has played every game for Penrith Panthers during their minor premiership run and has been a strong playmaker all season, finishing with 15 try assists and 12 forced drop-outs.

Jerome Luai in action against for Samoa.
Jerome Luai in action against for Samoa. Photo credit: Getty

7-Kodi Nikorima

While Jahrome Hughes has arguably been better, Nikroima would get the nod, due to his previous test experience and Hughes' utility qualities off the bench.

8-Jesse Bromwich

Strong, steady, consistent and a leader... exactly what you need in your forward pack. 

9-Brandon Smith

Like Tuivasa-Sheck, Smith selects himself due to the lack of competition for his jersey, although the Waiheke native has barely played a bad moment in the black jersey 

10-James Fisher-Harris 

The Panthers forward has transformed from a back-rower into one of the game's best props and became a key contributor to this season's most dominant pack.

He finished among league leaders in post-contact metres (1347) and decoy runs (150), while finishing fourth in run metres (3659) and second in runs (394), just behind Tuivasa-Sheck.

11-Tohu Harris 

Injuries and non-availability have prevented Harris from playing for the Kiwis since 2016, but career-best form and a injury-free campaign could see the Warriors' best performer back in black.  

Tohu Harris last played for the Kiwis in 2016.
Tohu Harris last played for the Kiwis in 2016. Photo credit: Getty

12-Kevin Proctor

While the biting incident overshadowed his season, Proctor was one of the most consistent forwards in a Titans forward pack that just missed out on the top eight. 

13-Joseph Tapine 

Another player who has been a quiet achiever in a dominant forward pack this year, regularly carrying more than over 100m per game and tackling strongly.


14-Jahrome Hughes
All three of his tests have come from the bench and he has the ability to cover other positions, if needed. 

15-Jared Waerea-Hargreaves

The aggressor off the bench has been a mainstay in the Kiwis side since his 2009 test debut.

16- Raymond Faitala-Mariner

While the Bulldogs struggled on the field, Faitala-Mariner was one of their most consistent performers, featuring in every game during their 2020 campaign.

17-Nelson Asofa-Solomona 

The biggest man in the Kiwis pack keeps his spot on the bench, after another strong season with Melbourne Storm.

18th Man - Dylan Brown 

The decision between Brown and Luai was flip of a coin, but to his advantage, the latter played the entire NRL season. 

Other potential squad members: Kenneath Bromwich, Braden Hamlin-Uele, Chanel Harris-Tavita, Morgan Harper, Corey Harawira-Naera, Isaac Liu, Jeremy Marshall-King, Briton Nikora, Jordan Rapana, Zane Tetevano, Jazz Tevaga

Ben Francis is a Newshub digital sports producer.