Benji returns as Kiwis name strong squad for Tonga Test

Wests Tigers playmaker Benji Marshall is a step away from his first international appearance in seven years after being selected in an extended New Zealand squad for the June 22 Oceania Cup Test against Mate Ma'a Tonga at Mt Smart Stadium.

Marshall was named alongside rookie Cronulla second-rower Briton Nikora, Melbourne utility Jahrome Hughes and Canterbury five-eighth Kieran Foran in a 27-man squad boasting experience and youth ahead of this weekend's round of Telstra Premiership matches.

The 34-year-old, who last played for the Kiwis in 2012, is one of four playmakers in the New Zealand squad along with Foran, Warriors halfback Kodi Nikorima and Sharks five-eighth Shaun Johnson.

Kiwis coach Michael Maguire will reduce the squad to 19 on Sunday after assessing the fitness and form of players on the weekend.

Warriors captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is expected to regain his No.1 jersey after missing last year's Tests against England and Australia, with 2018 Kiwis skipper Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, who will make his debut for the Bulldogs this weekend, likely to move to the wing.

Tuivasa-Sheck, Marshall, Foran, Nikora and Sydney Roosters prop Zane Tetevano are the only members of the 27-man squad who didn't feature in last year's Test campaign.

"We're really pleased with the quality and form of the players we've been able to select," Maguire.

"Nearly all of them have come through the Test we had against England in Denver last year and the matches against Australia and England later in the year. As a group we made a lot of progress and now it's all about building on that.

"This Test against Tonga at Mount Smart is going to be a huge occasion and we can't wait to be part of it.

"It kicks off what is a tremendous year for the international game with the introduction of the Oceania Cup competition, the Downer Rugby League World Cup Nines and our series against the Great Britain Rugby League Lions."

The Warriors boast the highest representation in the squad, with Tuivasa-Sheck, Nikorima, winger Ken Maumalo, prop Leeson Ah Mau, hooker Issac Luke, second rower Isaiah Papali'i and newcomer Agnatius Paasi.

Melbourne have five players – Jesse and Kenny Bromwich, prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona, hooker Brandon Smith and Hughes – while there are four Roosters in prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, centre Joseph Manu, lock Isaac Liu and Tetevano.

Hughes and Paasi were in New Zealand's end-of-season touring squad to England but didn't appear in a Test while Tetevano, who has played at international level for Cook Islands, was originally selected for the campaign before being ruled out by injury.

Match: New Zealand v Tonga

Round 1 -

Full Time
New Zealand

Home Team

New Zealand

Scored 34 points
Tonga

Away Team

Tonga

Scored 14 points

Venue: Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland

Match broadcasters:

  • GEM
  • Foxtel