TOP Giants signing Paul Whatuira has been named in New Zealand’s 19-man squad for the Centenary Test against Australia on October 14.
The Westpac Stadium clash is the domestic centrepiece of the New Zealand Rugby League’s celebrations to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of the international game.
And the fact new Huddersfield centre Whatuira, pictured, has been named suggests he is almost certain to be included in the Kiwis squad to face Great Britain in this autumn’s Gillette Fusion Test series, which gets under way at the Galpharm on Saturday, October 27.
Seven players yet to make their Kiwi debuts have been included in the Centenary Test, including Melbourne Storm duo Jeremy Smith and Jeff Lima, who were told of their inclusion after their 34-8 Australian NRL Grand Final triumph over Manly at Telstra Stadium.
The other new faces named are Cronulla winger Luke Covell, Parramatta prop Fuifui Moimoi, South Sydney halfback Jeremy Smith, St George Illawarra centre Chase Stanley and Wests Tigers winger Taniela Tuiaki.
Recalled to the squad after missing this year’s Anzac Test through injury is Bradford centre Shontayne Hape and New Zealand Warriors back rower Louis Anderson plus Manly centre Steve Matai.
The other nine players named were all in the 19-man squad used in Brisbane this year – Whatuira, Roy Asotasi, David Faiumu, Dene Halatau, Krisnan Inu, Simon Mannering, Frank Pritchard, Sam Rapira and Ben Roberts and Paul Whatuira (although Whatuira was omitted from the final playing side). Asotasi will again captain the side.
Meanwhile, Ireland’s crucial World Cup qualifying match against Lebanon next month will be staged at Dewsbury.
The sides fought out an 18-18 draw in Dublin last November and were due to play the return game in Lebanon but, because of the unstable situation in the country, a neutral venue has been chosen.
The news will delight Ireland coach Andy Kelly, who knows a victory in the clash on Friday, November 2 will almost certainly guarantee a place in next year’s World Cup in Australia.