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NRL experience shows through in Junior Kiwis train-on squad

The Junior Kiwis' 32-man train-on squad named today by the New Zealand Rugby League's national selectors includes nine players with NRL experience.
NRL experience shows through in Junior Kiwis train-on squad
by NRL

The Junior Kiwis' 32-man train-on squad named today by the New Zealand Rugby League's national selectors includes nine players with NRL experience.

With former Kiwi David Kidwell named as coach, the Junior Kiwis will play two internationals against the Junior Kangaroos in Wellington and Rotorua next month, their first outings since meeting the Australians in the capital in 2007.

Among those included in the squad are Bill Tupou (Warriors) and Will Tupou (North Queensland) - not related - who were both used extensively in the NRL this year.

New Zealand Rugby League football manager Tony Kemp said the criteria for selection is that, in line with the National Youth Competition rules, players must be under 20 on January 1 this year and they can't have played more than 50 per cent of their club's regular season NRL games this year. Both Tupous narrowly qualify for selection after each making 12 NRL appearances this year but Matt Duffie (Melbourne) and Joseph Leilua (Sydney Roosters) miss out because they both played 14 NRL games.

Apart from the Tupous, those named who have played in the NRL at some stage this year are Canberra's Drury Low and Sam Mataora, Martin Taupau (Canterbury-Bankstown), Dean Whare (Manly), Jason Taumalolo (North Queensland) and Kalifa Faifai-Loa (St George Ilawarra) while Siuatonga Likiliki made his solitary NRL appearance for the Warriors last year. Another player with NRL experience - St George Illawarra's Kyle Stanley - was ruled out through injury.

Kiwi coach Stephen Kearney said he and fellow selectors Howie Tamati (convener), Tony Iro and Tawera Nikau were excited about the depth and quality of talent available.

"The fact is some very good players haven't made this squad but there is just so much talent in the NYC for us to pick from," he said.

"While there'll be some disappointment we simply couldn't fit everyone in. That says a lot for the shape we're in. In terms of rugby league's future in New Zealand it's critical for us to have the Junior Kiwis back in business at last. We're committed to providing pathways for our emerging players."

Kemp said camps held this year as part of the NZRL's Junior Elite Kiwi Roots Twenty10 initiative had been instrumental in identifying and appealing to players who had since pledged their allegiance to New Zealand.

"During the year we have held these camps in Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland, Townsville and Canberra and they've been hugely beneficial for us in terms of unearthing players who are eligible to play for New Zealand," he said.

"Through the camps we were trying to appeal to New Zealand hearts and minds. That's vital for us as we do all we can to ensure New Zealand is able to call on the best players available in future. At the same time, we are interested only in players who have a genuine passion to represent New Zealand."

The Warriors, who are one win away from reaching the 2010 NYC grand final, provide the largest contingent of players in the train-on squad with 11.

The Junior Kiwis will meet their Australian counterparts in the curtain-raisers to the Kiwis' Four Nations clashes against England at Westpac Stadium in Wellington on October 23 and Papua New Guinea at Rotorua's International Stadium on October 30. The 2010 Junior Kiwis will also have a training run with the Kiwis ahead of the Four Nations match in Wellington.

Kemp said all players named had declared their commitment to representing New Zealand. The eligibility of all players has been confirmed by the Rugby League International Federation.

Canberra Raiders: Drury Low, Sam Mataora, Matt McIlwrick, Josh Papalii
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs: Sam Kasiano, Martin Taupau
Manly Sea Eagles: Lama Tasi, Dean Whare
Melbourne Storm: Kirisome Auva'a, Kenny Bromwich, Tohu Harris
North Queensland Cowboys: Alex Elisala, Michael Parker-Walsh, Jason Taumalolo, Will Tupou, Wayne Ulugia
St George Illawarra Dragons: Kalifia Faifai-Loa
South Sydney Rabbitohs: Kane Morgan, Jack Tulemau
Sydney Roosters: Isaac Maliota
Warriors: Henry Chan-Ting, Glen Fisiiahi, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Shaun Johnson, Siuatonga Likiliki, Elijah Niko, Daniel Palavi, Matt Robinson, Nafe Seluini, Carlos Tuimavave, Bill Tupou
Wests Tigers: Faleula Finau

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