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Kiwis call up four NRL grand finalists

05/10/2009 03:04:27 PM Comments (0)

New Zealand have named seven uncapped players in their squad for the inaugural Four Nations rugby league tournament in England and France.

Coach Stephen Kearney said New Zealand's defence of the World Cup in 2013 was a key factor in the selectors' decision to blood the newcomers.

The seven are half Kieran Foran, back rower Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (both Manly), winger Bryson Goodwin (Bulldogs), fullback/winger Kevin Locke, second rower Ben Matulino (both New Zealand Warriors), prop Frank-Paul Nuuausala (Sydney Roosters) and centre Junior Sau (Newcastle).

Kearney said it was exciting to be able to pick so many young players with a potential to have a big part in the Kiwis' future.

"They've all made a real impact in the National Rugby League (NRL) this year with all but one of them having had a taste of finals football either this season or last season," he said on Monday.

"We don't have the benefit of tour matches these days so it's important we ensure we are always developing our future Test players."

Foran, Locke and Waerea-Hargreaves made their NRL debuts this year, Matulino and Sau made theirs in 2008 and Goodwin and Nuuausala first appeared at first-grade level in 2007.

Australia-born Goodwin, 23, is one of three sons of St George legend and former Kangaroo Ted Goodwin, who have all played NRL.

After nine matches with Cronulla, Goodwin scored 20 tries in 24 outings in his first season with the Bulldogs to be one of the competition's leading tryscorers.

He has previously represented New Zealand Maori.

The 23-man squad, to be skippered Benji Marshall, feature just one player from the British Super League in Wigan halfback Thomas Leuluai.

Unavailable because of injury were Roy Asotasi (knee), Simon Mannering (knee), Sam Rapira (chest), Jerome Ropati (shoulder), Zeb Taia (shoulder), Taniela Tuiaki (ankle), Manu Vatuvei (knee) and Sika Manu (ankle).

Also not considered was utility Setaimata Sa, who faces charges, including assaulting female police officer, in an alleged alcohol-fuelled incident in Sydney last month.

Despite the number of players sitting out the Four Nations, Kearney believed the Kiwis had built their depth in all positions.

"We've had a number of players ruled out but we still have a squad of really good quality," he said.

"The encouraging thing is that there were a lot of really capable players who have also missed out. We're confident with the group we have this time.

Of the squad used in last year's successful World Cup campaign, 12 are in the tour party while utility Iosia Soliola was an original World Cup selection.

Among the players recalled are second rower Frank Pritchard, who last played for the Kiwis in the Australian Rugby League's centenary Test last year.

Pritchard missed the World Cup and this year's Anzac Test against Australia because of injury.

Prop Fuifui Moimoi made his Kiwis debut in 2007 and returns after a two-year absence on the back of his compelling form for beaten NRL grand finalists the Parramatta Eels.

Grand final-winning Melbourne forwards Adam Blair and Jeff Lima are both in the squad as is Parramatta's Krisnan Inu.

The Kiwis will assemble in Auckland on Wednesday and play Tonga in a one-off test in Rotorua on October 14.

They open their Four Nations campaign against Australia in London on October 24.

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