The NZRL Junior Kiwi Selectors today announced the following squad to face the England Under-18 Academy in a two match Test series in August.
In alphabetical order: Player Name - District of Origin / NRL Club (contracted or scholarship players)
Joshua Davis - Wellington / Parramatta Eels Sonny Fa'i - Auckland / NZ Warriors Marvin Filipo - Auckland / NZ Warriors Robinson Godfrey - Auckland / NZ Warriors Marvin Karawana - Wellington Dion Leuila-Briggs - Auckland / NZ Warriors Issac Luke - Wellington Simon Mannering - Wellington / NZ Warriors Viliami Manu - Wellington / NZ Warriors Sam Moa - Auckland / West Tigers Frank-Paul Nuuausala - Auckland / NZ Warriors Joseph Parekura - Wellington Duan Poaneki - Wai-Coa-Bay / NZ Warriors Sam Rapira - Wai-Coa-Bay / NZ Warriors Iosia Soliola - Auckland / Sydney City Roosters Samuel Tagataese - Wellington / Melbourne Storm John Te Reo - Wellington Manu Vatuvei - Auckland / NZ Warriors Mataika Vatuvei - Auckland / NZ Warriors
Tony Benson - Head Coach Leighton Karawana - Assistant Coach
A further nine players have been placed on standby pending fitness and availability of the 19 named.
As expected, the core of the team comes from the Auckland and Wellington Under 18 teams that comprehensively outplayed the touring NSW Country 18's team recently.
They can however expect a much sterner examination from the English Academy side, who are selected from the UK Super League's elite development programme.
The 30 strong preparation squad named by the RFL contains a handful of players who already have Super League experience including Ian Hardman (St Helens), Craig Ruby (Castleford Tigers), Karl Pryce (Bradford Bulls) and Desi Williams (Wigan Warriors).
The majority of the squad is part of the Super League production line via scholarships and contracts with professional clubs in the same way that many of the Junior Kiwis are aligned with NRL franchises.
While Manu Vatuvei is the only JK with First Grade experience, the two Tests to be played on the 8th and 15th of August will be very competitive given the calibre of junior talent now being produced by NZ's development programmes.
The English will play a warm up game against Auckland 18's and will travel across the Tasman after the JK Tests to face the Australian Schoolboys.