In form Raiders rookies Matthew Timoko and Sebastian Kris may be playing for a World Cup berth in Friday night's semi-final against Parramatta after being named in an extended Kiwis squad.
Timoko, 22, and Kris, 23, are the only two members of the 34-man squad yet to pull on a New Zealand jersey, with Bulldogs hooker Jeremy Marshall-King and Eels winger Bailey Simonsson having played in the 2019 World Nines.
The pair have earned their selection after being instrumental in Canberra's surge into week two of the NRL finals after eliminating Melbourne Storm 28-20 last Saturday night.
Timoko leaves them all in his wake
The No.1 ranked Kiwis boast a strong forward pack and spine but are light on for outside backs as coach Michael Maguire playing Parramatta's Marata Niukore at centre in the mid-season Test against Mate Ma'a Tonga.
Among the players added to the squad chosen for the Tonga Test are Kiwis veterans Shaun Johnson, Kodi Nikorima and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, who may not be available until the knock-out stages of the World Cup due to suspension.
Canberra's Corey Harawira-Naera and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, and Cronulla prop Braden Hamlin-Uele also join the squad, along with Marshall-King, Simonsson, Kris and Timoko.
Kris uses his head to put Rapana over
Gold Coast hooker Erin Clark isn’t included after being ruled out following knee surgery.
Seven of the players are yet to make their Test debuts for the Kiwis – Kris, Timoko, Marshall-King, Simonsson, Griffin Neame, Jordan Riki and Scott Sorensen – but Neame, Riki and Sorensen were in camp for the Tonga Test.
“We wanted to name a wider squad so we have all options covered while the NRL finals are playing out,” said Kiwis head coach Michael Maguire.
“We’re excited about the depth of players available and the form they’re in. The vast majority of them are in sides that made it into the finals which is a real positive as we look ahead to the tournament.”
The Kiwis are due to assemble in Sydney on September 27 where they’ll train for two days before flying to England on September 30. Players selected from the two teams in the grand final will travel separately the following week.
The Kiwis will warm up for their World Cup campaign with a match against the Leeds Rhinos at Headingley on October 8 when 2008 World Cup winner Thomas Leuluai will be guest captain in the final match of his decorated career before retiring.
The Kiwis will then move to their RLWC base in York. Their opening Pool C match is against Lebanon in Warrington on October 16 followed by Jamaica in Hull on October 22 and Ireland in Leeds on October 28.
New Zealand Kiwis Wider Squad
- Nelson Asofa-Solomona (Melbourne Storm)
- Jesse Bromwich (Melbourne Storm)
- Kenny Bromwich (Melbourne Storm)
- Dylan Brown (Parramatta Eels)
- James Fisher-Harris (Penrith Panthers)
- Kieran Foran (Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles)
- Braden Hamlin-Uele (Cronulla Sharks)
- Corey Harawira-Naera (Canberra Raiders)
- Peta Hiku (North Queensland Cowboys)
- Jahrome Hughes (Melbourne Storm)
- Shaun Johnson (Warriors)
- Sebastian Kris* (Canberra Raiders)
- Moses Leota (Penrith Panthers)
- Isaac Liu (Gold Coast Titans)
- Joseph Manu (Sydney Roosters)
- Jeremy Marshall-King (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)
- Te Maire Martin (Brisbane Broncos)
- Ken Maumalo (Wests Tigers)
- Ronaldo Mulitalo (Cronulla Sharks)
- Griffin Neame (North Queensland Cowboys)
- Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad (Canberra Raiders)
- Briton Nikora (Cronulla Sharks)
- Kodi Nikorima (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
- Marata Niukore (Parramatta Eels)
- Isaiah Papali'i (Parramatta Eels)
- Jordan Rapana (Canberra Raiders)
- Jordan Riki* (Brisbane Broncos)
- Bailey Simonsson* (Parramatta Eels)
- Brandon Smith (Melbourne Storm)
- Scott Sorensen* (Penrith Panthers)
- Joseph Tapine (Canberra Raiders)
- Matthew Timoko* (Canberra Raiders)
- Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Sydney Roosters)
- Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (Warriors)
* Denotes yet to make Kiwis debut.