Kiwis rest big names in favour of Test rookies
NEW Zealand coach David Kidwell has denied that his selections for the Test against Scotland are a gamble, saying that the young players brought in all deserve their spots.
There are five changes to the team that lost 14-8 to the Kangaroos last Sunday, with established names like Jason Taumalolo, Kevin Proctor and Shaun Kenny-Dowall all omitted for the match in Workington.
But Kidwell doesn't think he is rolling the dice too much ahead of the must-win clash tomorrow morning (6am AEST).
"These guys are in this team for a reason, they belong in this team,” Kidwell said. "They get to show what they are capable of and take their opportunity.”
Warriors utility David Fusitua will make his Test debut, with fellow rookies Te Maire Martin, Joseph Tapine and James Fisher-Harris all set to come off the bench. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (one Test) is the other new inclusion, replacing Jordan Kahu at fullback.
There haven't been that many new faces in a Kiwis side since the 2014 Anzac Test, when Stephen Kearney called up Martin Taupau, Silvia Havili, Issac John, Peta Hiku and Ben Henry to face the Kangaroos.
But the quintet on this tour are coming off strong NRL seasons - Tapine, Fisher-Harris and Watene-Zelezniak all featured in the finals series - and have impressed with their focus and commitment on tour.
"They have trained hard, helped the guys who are in the 17 prepare for the Tests before and they are really excited,” Kidwell said.
"To see the look on their faces when I told them they were going to make their debut was exciting, not just for me as a coach but also the whole team and the leadership group. I was talking to them about how we were going to give these guys a run and they were 100% behind it.”
Kidwell also deflected questions about Taumalolo, who told Radio Sport he was "disappointed” not to be playing.
"You need to look at the positives of the guys who are debuting,” Kidwell said. "We have all been there, our first game in the black jersey (and) excitement around the camp. I'm excited to see what these young fellas can bring to the game and the jersey.”
Captain Jesse Bromwich backed the selections.
"I think everyone deserves a game,” Bromwich said. "We have come over here, worked so hard and this is their reward. There are a couple of young guys debuting and I get to be a part of it ... they are going to remember it for the rest of their lives.”
Proctor and Taumalolo have had heavy workloads over the last three weeks and will benefit from the rest. Kenny-Dowall has been struggling for form while the presence of Fusitua and Watene-Zelezniak adds to the team's attacking power.
The Kiwis couldn't prepare at the Test venue, with their captain's run moved from Workington to protect the field after heavy rain in recent days.
Instead New Zealand trained at the home of Aspatria Hornets, an amateur team playing in the seventh tier of English league. Two schools from the local community attended the session, and local fans and players stayed behind afterwards for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to meet some NRL stars.