Updated lineups for Saturday's #PacificTest double header.
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3 days ago
If the New Zealand Warriors make the National Rugby League grand final the Kiwis will field a severely weakened side for their first international of the year. The grand final will be played at Stadium Australia in Sydney on October 6 - 24 hours after the Kiwis play Papua New Guinea in a one-off test in Rotorua.
The Warriors are running hot in the NRL and the franchise is a premiership contender even though there is a long way to go in the race for the trophy.
New Zealand Rugby League president Selwyn Pearson is aware of the potential problems for the national team if the Warriors make the showpiece event of club footy.
"If the Warriors do make the final, we are going to have a very different Kiwi team for PNG," he said.
However, there was no thought of removing the match's test status.
"I think that would be insulting to PNG," he said. "I wouldn't like to do that.
"We knew about this (the potential for the clash) when we arranged the test after the Warriors had played about three games in the NRL."
Six Warriors - Stacey Jones, Jerry Seuseu, Ali Lauiti'iti, Awen Guttenbeil, Clinton Toopi and Lance Hohaia - will be serious test candidates.
Richard Villasanti, if he chooses to represent New Zealand, Motu Tony and wingers Henry Fa'afili and Francis Meli could also come into the frame.
Kiwi coach Gary Freeman is certain to be without first-choice test players irrespective of which teams reach the final.
High-flyers the Bulldogs and Parramatta are other teams with Kiwi test certainties. And leading England-based players are also unlikely to be available because of club commitments.
The Warriors reaching the final would hurt the Kiwis but Pearson is desperately keen for them to succeed.
"Nothing would make me happier," he said.
"Since 1995, I have cringed with things going wrong and the club being overpromoted and underachieving. At long last we are starting to see the Warriors performing and being a creditable team.
"I am really chuffed with that and I want them to make the grand final.
"Sure, I would be disappointed if we couldn't put out our strongest (Kiwis) team.
"But whenever one person is unavailable it is someone else's opportunity."
The NZRL cannot reschedule the PNG test. It is the entree for the one-off international against Australia in Wellington on October 12