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Full squad available for Kiwis Wembley clash

New Zealand Coach Stephen Kearney will be able to consider all 23 players for the first time on tour when the Kiwis face Wales in the first match of Saturday's Four Nations double header at Wembley Stadium in London.
Full squad available for Kiwis Wembley clash
by NRL

New Zealand Coach Stephen Kearney will be able to consider all 23 players for the first time on tour when the Kiwis face Wales in the first match of Saturday's Four Nations double header at Wembley Stadium in London.

The Kiwis arrived at their London base - the Hilton Hotel in Kensington - ahead of their clash against the tournament's lowest-ranked side (England will meet Australia in the feature match).

In the first two internationals of this end of season campaign, Kearney was without the suspended Adam Blair, one of his most experienced forwards, for both Tests against Australia. And last Friday night prop Russell Packer, who made his debut in Newcastle on October 16, was also suspended.

With those two players available again and the other 21 players all fit, Kearney will have his full complement of players to choose from for a match the defending Four Nations champions must win to stay in contention for a place in the final at Elland Road on November 19. The Welsh slumped to a 4-42 loss to England in their opening match in Leigh yesterday (Saturday).

"It's helpful having everyone available for selection," said Kearney.

"But, no matter who plays this week, a priority against Wales will be trying to find a way to start our games better. We need to learn from what happened against the Australians last Friday night and also in Newcastle when we weren't able to start the way we wanted."

When the Kiwis started their tour, more than a third of the players were yet to play a Test. In Newcastle Kevin Locke, Kalifa Faifai Loa, Gerard Beale, Russell Packer and Alex Glenn were all handed their debuts with Locke, Faifai Loa, Beale and Glenn all backing up in Warrington last Friday night while Packer was banned.

Of the eight rookies named in the original squad, Kevin Proctor (Melbourne), Elijah Taylor (Warriors) and Bill Tupou (Warriors) are yet to make their international debuts but come into contention this week. Taylor was 18th man against the Kangaroos in Newcastle and Proctor was 18th man on Friday night.

While the Kiwis are in London, they'll be able to explore the city, having time off tomorrow (Monday) and on Tuesday. There'll also be major events at three of London's major landmarks.

After a conditioning session before leaving Liverpool this morning, the Kiwis will return to full training on Wednesday with a field run at the Wasps Rugby Club, where Wales coach Warren Gatland was once in charge and where Great Britain and Wigan rugby league legend Shaun Edwards is now coach. Among the club's current squad are former All Black Ross Filipo and ex-Hurricanes star Riki Flutey, who has since played for both England and the British and Irish Lions.

On Wednesday evening the Kiwis will be at the Tower of London for the Rugby League International Federation's annual awards dinner while, on Thursday, the Rugby Football League will stage a photo call and media conference at the famous Hard Rock Cafe. The coaches and two players from each of the four teams will be present to promote the Four Nations double header.

And on Friday the Kiwis, along with the other three teams, will have some precious time training on Wembley's hallowed turf. The teams have been given just half an hour each to run on the ground.


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