Slater, Lockyer named in Kangaroos team


Australian coach Ricky Stuart has called in some of rugby league's toughest enforcers for a Centenary Test he claims will be a "war" as New Zealand look to regain international credibility.

Wary of a scorned Kiwi side with new coach Stephen Kearney at the helm, Stuart has surprisingly made seven changes to his team which thumped New Zealand 58-0 last October for the May 9 clash at the SCG.

Head of those changes is the Test debuts handed to North Queensland firebrand Carl Webb, Cronulla forward Paul Gallen and Melbourne fullback Billy Slater.

While Slater's exceptional NRL form simply could not be overlooked, it was the selections of Webb and Gallen which signalled the Australians' intention not to be bullied by a resurgent Kiwis outfit.

Gallen joins Cronulla bash brother Greg Bird and Melbourne's rampaging Ryan Hoffman in an imposing new-look backrow after incumbent 'workers' Dallas Johnson of the Storm and Eels stalwart Nathan Hindmarsh were dumped.

"We're going to be moving into a real battle and a real war," said Stuart.

"It's a big challenge that lays ahead of us in regard to I think the new foundation and coaching staff and credibility they have to get back in the New Zealand squad.

"They will certainly have the team wanting to play for New Zealand.

"We have to try and better that. Every player that I have picked over my short term as Australian coach has had the attitude of wanting to play for the Australian jersey.

"One thing I will be telling all the squad when we get into camp is that last result was a one-off, that won't happen again. This is going to be a challenge we have to be up for."

Brisbane champion Darren Lockyer won his battle with a knee injury to return as captain at five-eighth while halfback Johnathan Thurston (shoulder) and centre Justin Hodges (hamstring) were also reinstated after missing last year's clash with injuries.

Lockyer was selected based on his own assessment of form and fitness after playing his first full game of 2008 on Friday against South Sydney.

"If Darren Lockyer says he is healthy to play we all believe that," said Stuart.

"He is not a person who would put the team in jeopardy ... Darren being selected on his word that he is okay is good enough for me."

Roosters backrower Anthony Tupou also forced his way into the 17-man squad on a potent bench which includes incumbents Willie Mason, Kurt Gidley and Webb.

Manly's Brent Kite and Penrith workaholic Petero Civoniceva lead the front row with Cameron Smith at hooker while St George Illawarra's Mark Gasnier is the only NSW player in the backline with Melbourne duo Greg Inglis and Israel Folau on the wings.

Joining Hindmarsh and Johnson in being punted from the Test team are Manly fullback Brett Stewart, Parramatta winger Jarryd Hayne, Melbourne half Cooper Cronk and firebrand Michael Crocker while Warriors prop Steve Price was unavailable due to injury.

Stuart said 15-Test veteran Hindmarsh and last year's bolter Crocker had the right to feel unlucky, but added for the other players their claims to 'incumbency' were not considered by selectors.

"When you talk about incumbency they only played one Test and I don't see that as an issue," said Stuart.

"Incumbency is more when you've been at it for six, seven, eight Tests, then we talk more about incumbency.

"I feel very sorry for two people, one is Nathan Hindmarsh who has been here since I started my representative coaching career. I think the poor form of his club losing a couple of games has not helped Nathan.

"Michael Crocker also could feel very unlucky, but the depth of talent we have in the backrow area in Australian rugby league is enormous."

Gold Coast forward Anthony Laffranchi was unlucky not to force his way into a green and gold jumper and is considered the leading contender to join the Kangaroos squad in camp as 18th man.