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Newcastle Knights forward Steve Simpson says he feared his chances of playing for Australia were over after pulling out of last year's Tri Nations tour.

Simpson has been named on the interchange bench for Friday's Test match against New Zealand, with his ability to play in both the front and back row looked upon favourably by coach Ricky Stuart and the selection panel.

But the talk of showing loyalty to incumbent players had Simpson concerned he may not add to his five Tests in the green and gold after pulling out of the Tri Nations campaign last year for personal reasons. The 26-year old is one of the few changes to the side which got trounced 24-0 in last year's Tri Nations decider.

Australian captain Darren Lockyer says Andrew Johns will run the show in Friday night's rugby league Test against New Zealand at Suncorp Stadium.

Johns and Lockyer will oppose boom youngster Benji Marshall and veteran Kiwi campaigner Nigel Vagana in a scrumbase battle as important to the outcome as the huge forward battle. Lockyer says directing the play is what Johns does best. Johns says he's trying not to think about his Test farewell and that the most important thing is an Australian victory.