8 hours ago
Tony Puletua and Joe Galuvao
Knocking On Selectors Door
New Zealand is blessed with a plethora of quality back-rowers, but Freeman on Thursday said the in-form Puletua and Galuvao simply could not be ignored.
Both have been devastating during the Panthers' rise from near wooden-spooners last season to genuine premiership contenders this year.
Puletua hasn't played a test since 2000, while 24-year-old Galuvao is a rookie at international level.
But Freeman backed both to do the business against the world champion Australians.
"I think Puletua and Galuvao have to be there somewhere," the former New Zealand coach said.
"You just look at Puletua and Galuvao and you'd nearly have to put them on the top of the list to pick them just because of the way they've been playing."
New Zealand selectors will name their squad to tackle the Kangaroos at Telstra Stadium on July 25 in two weeks, and their biggest dilemma is finding spots for the nation's glut of forward talent.
"(Ruben) Wiki and (Stephen) Kearney have certainly got to be in that mix," Freeman said.
"They've been playing exceptionally well also and I know that Steve Kearney is a player who can really bring a lot of the young guys together.
"Jerry Seuseu will probably be one of the front rowers without a doubt. He's just a real good athlete and he'll lead by example, then you've got (hooker) Richard Swain.
"So it doesn't leave too many options left over."
Freeman also nominated Warriors back rower Logan Swann and Awen Guttenbiel and Sydney Roosters prop Jason Cayless as test candidates.
"It will be interesting to see which way they go," he said.
"Either someone's going to miss out or they pick them all and start some off the bench."
New Zealand hasn't beaten Australia on the road since Wally Lewis' test farewell in 1991, and hasn't brought the Kangaroos down anywhere since 1999.
But Freeman said New Zealand's last-up 32-24 loss to Australia in Wellington proved the Kiwis weren't far off having the Kangaroos' measure.
"New Zealand's always in with a show," Freeman said.
"It depends if we can concentrate for the whole 80 minutes.
"If New Zealand plays to its best, it certainly can beat Australia.
"I can only go back to the two years (2001-02) that I was involved and last year I thought we played tremendous throughout the whole game, even though we lost at the end.
"It just shows we're edging closer and closer.
"And I think with all the (New Zealand) boys out in the NRL now, it really makes it tougher for Australia to keep winning every game."