Ahead of Friday's #NRL game between Penrith Panthers and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, writer Rob C...
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The Junior Kiwis' 32-man train-on squad named today by the New Zealand Rugby League's national selectors includes nine players with NRL experience.
With former Kiwi David Kidwell named as coach, the Junior Kiwis will play two internationals against the Junior Kangaroos in Wellington and Rotorua next month, their first outings since meeting the Australians in the capital in 2007.
Among those included in the squad are Bill Tupou (Warriors) and Will Tupou (North Queensland) - not related - who were both used extensively in the NRL this year.
New Zealand Rugby League football manager Tony Kemp said the criteria for selection is that, in line with the National Youth Competition rules, players must be under 20 on January 1 this year and they can't have played more than 50 per cent of their club's regular season NRL games this year. Both Tupous narrowly qualify for selection after each making 12 NRL appearances this year but Matt Duffie (Melbourne) and Joseph Leilua (Sydney Roosters) miss out because they both played 14 NRL games.
Apart from the Tupous, those named who have played in the NRL at some stage this year are Canberra's Drury Low and Sam Mataora, Martin Taupau (Canterbury-Bankstown), Dean Whare (Manly), Jason Taumalolo (North Queensland) and Kalifa Faifai-Loa (St George Ilawarra) while Siuatonga Likiliki made his solitary NRL appearance for the Warriors last year. Another player with NRL experience - St George Illawarra's Kyle Stanley - was ruled out through injury.
Kiwi coach Stephen Kearney said he and fellow selectors Howie Tamati (convener), Tony Iro and Tawera Nikau were excited about the depth and quality of talent available.