The NSW Blues have been named for the first game of the 2017 #Origin series.
5 days ago - 2 Likes
Vodafone Warriors prop Ben Matulino and Wigan utility Thomas Leuluai are both back in the Kiwis' line-up for Friday night's Gillette Four Nations opener against Kangaroos at The Halliwell Jones Stadium in Warrington.
Matulino replaces club-mate Russell Packer, ruled out for this game after being handed a one-match suspension following a tackle on Australian captain Darren Lockyer in the 6-42 loss to the Kangaroos in Newcastle on October 16.
Matulino takes debutant Packer's starting spot while 22-Test veteran Adam Blair remains unavailable as he serves the last match of his suspension dating back to the Melbourne Storm's regular season NRL clash against Manly.
The only other change in the personnel used in Newcastle sees Leuluai (26) coming into the squad for 20-Test campaigner Nathan Fien. Issac Luke has been handed the starting hooker's role Fien filled 10 days ago while Leuluai, the side's most experienced international with 27 Tests, has been named on the bench, coming back into the line-up for the first time since the Kiwis' 16-12 win over the Australians in last November's Four Nations final.
There is also a positional switch with Melbourne second rower Sika Manu brought into the starting line-up while Alex Glenn (Brisbane), one of five Test debutants in Newcastle, goes to the bench. The backline is unchanged while prop Sam McKendry and back rowers Simon Mannering and Jeremy Smith are still in their starting roles with Fuifui Moimoi and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves again the interchange front rowers.
Young Melbourne second rower Kevin Proctor has been chosen as the 18th man.