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Plenty of Test experience in Maori team

03/10/2008 06:50:55 AM Comments (0)

Departing Warriors back rower Wairangi Koopu is one of four players with Test experience named in the New Zealand Maori rugby league team to meet the All Golds in New Plymouth next weekend.

Koopu, who has just ended his 10-year NRL career, will line up against his old club-mates Ruben Wiki, Stacey Jones and Logan Swann in what is also likely to be his last rugby league appearance in New Zealand.

After 159 appearances for the Warriors, Koopu is yet to determine his future.

He has indicated he is still looking at the possibility of playing in the English Super League but he has also shown an interest in switching to rugby union. Recently he has trained with Auckland's Air NZ Cup squad.

In the squad named on Friday, Koopu was paired in the centres with 2007 Kiwi rookie Shaun Kenny-Dowall.

Wing Jason Nightingale is another one-Test Kiwi who made his debut in this year's Centenary Test against Australia.

The 22-year-old scored 13 tries in 24 games for St George-Illawarra this year.

The only other former Kiwi - also a one-Test international - is Wests Tigers second rower Bronson Harrison, who played against France in 2005 and has signed with Canberra for the 2009 NRL season.

Coach Luke Goodwin said the game was an exciting opportunity for the Maori players.

"It's a fair side named to play for the All Golds, a heck of a side," he said.

"Our boys will be coming up against some real legends of the game. The way we see it, it's a huge opportunity for our players and a real honour to be able to play against a side of such quality."

The other players in the starting line-up all have NRL experience with one notable exception - fullback Kevin Locke.

The 19-year-old excelled for the Junior Warriors in this year's inaugural National Youth Competition, scoring 236 points including 15 tries. He was named the club's NYC player of the year.

Also included is another NYC star, Wellington-born Jordan Rapana, a 19-year-old winger who scored five tries in five NRL outings for the Gold Coast Titans this year.

The New Plymouth match is a build-up to the 2008 Rugby League World Cup which opens in Sydney on October 28.

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