Wigan scrum-half Thomas Leuluai has been included in New Zealand’s 24-man World Cup squad.
The 32-year-old former London Broncos and New Zealand Warriors player will hope to win his 36th cap when the Kiwis open their campaign against Samoa in Auckland on October 28.
Leuluai, who suffered a double fracture of his jaw playing for the Kiwis in their 18-18 draw with Scotland in the Four Nations Series at Workington last November, had feared his international career might be curtailed following his return to Super League.
But he had been pencilled in for the mid-season ANZAC Test before damaging his jaw once more, and his experience will be vital in the World Cup in the absence of seasoned internationals Kieran Foran, Jordan Kahu, Issac Luke, Ben Matulino, Jess Bromwich, Kevin Proctor, Tohu Harris and Jason Taumololo.
Leuluai is likely to find himself in the hooking role after Luke was omitted due to his poor form.
David Kidwell’s squad includes five new faces in Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Addin Fonua-Blake, Danny Levi, Isaac Liu and Brad Takairangi.
Former captain Simon Mannering is also back and there is a place for centre Pete Hiku, who spent the latter part of the 2017 season with Warrington.
Kidwell said: “This is a unique opportunity, a World Cup in our country is a great honour and I can’t wait to get into camp and work this this group of men and women who are all committed to the Kiwis.
“There’s a great mix of enthusiasm and experience in this side and a real desire to win this World Cup, I can’t wait to show the people around New Zealand all the work we have been doing and how committed we are to this campaign.”
Squad: Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Gerard Beale, Adam Blair, Kenny Bromwich, Addin Fonua-Blake, Peta Hiku, Shaun Johnson, Thomas Leuliuai, Danny Levi, Isaac Liu, Simon Mannering, Te Maire Martin, Jason Nightingale, Kodi Nikorima, Russell Packer, Jordan Rapana, Brad Takairangi, Joseph Tapine, Martin Taupau, Elijah Taylor, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Dean Whare.