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Kiwis ready to unleash all-Warriors spine

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 30/04/2017 Scott Bailey

An all-Warriors NRL spine could be just what the doctor ordered to cure New Zealand's woeful mid-year Test record.

New Zealand has won just one the last 17 Tests against Australia, as they struggle to come to terms with short preparations.

But Kieran Foran was on Sunday named to play his first Test in two years for the Kiwis, alongside three of his clubmates.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Shaun Johnson and Issac Luke were all selected in the 20-man squad, along with fellow Warriors David Fusitu'a and Simon Mannering.

Incredibly, the selection of Foran and Johnson marks the first time an NRL club halves pairing will combine for a mid-year Test for New Zealand since the first of the annual mid-year event in 1997.

It is also the first time a club's fullback, five-eighth, halfback and hooker will combine for New Zealand in the annual fixture - and coach David Kidwell hopes that will assist in attack come Friday night in Canberra.

"It's great to have continuity in those key positions," he said.

"Them playing week in, week out for each other is only a plus for the Kiwis."

Crucially, Foran and Johnson join with a high winning percentage when playing alongside each other at international level.

The pair have won 10 of 12 matches alongside each other at Test level, and three of five at club level.

They have also won their last three Tests against Australia - twice in the 2014 Four Nations and once in the 2015 mid-year Test.

New Zealand have not beaten Australia without them at the helm since 2010 in the 10 other matches.

"Kieran's been playing some good footy this year," Kidwell said.

"His combination with Shaun Johnson and Roger at the back is certainly benefiting from the more time they all spend together."

Foran isn't the only reformed NRL player to make his return for the Kiwis.

Former bad boy Russell Packer is also set to make his international debut, having not played for the Kiwis since 2011 and having served time in prison for assault since then.

"It's quite humbling to hear the excitement in his voice," Kidwell said.

"He's worked hard on and off the field. He deserves the opportunity. He's been playing well for St George Illawarra and his form warrants the opportunity."

Relative unknown and 20-year-old Melbourne hooker Brandon Smith is the bolter, having also been included without playing an NRL game, while Storm teammate Nelson Asofa-Solomona is also in line to debut under captain Jesse Bromwich.

But Dragons winger Jason Nightingale wasn't so lucky, and neither were fellow international veterans Alex Glenn, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves or Shaun Kenny-Dowall.

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