Tohu Harris shapes as the answer to New Zealand’s halves crisis after being named at No.6 for Friday’s trans-Tasman Test against Australia in Newcastle.
The Melbourne back-rower will suit up in the halves after the Kiwis lost potential playmakers Kieran Foran (personal reasons), Peta Hiku (knee), Thomas Leuluai (hamstring) in the past week.
Hiku and Alex Glenn (calf) were the latest players to withdraw from the squad, with Gerard Beale called into the centres for his first Test since 2014.
The Kiwis also have concerns over the fitness of fellow-centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall, who sported a moon boot at the team’s recovery training session on Monday.
The Sydney Rooster will be given time to prove his readiness, with Parramatta’s Brad Takairangi and Melbourne forward Kenny Bromwich arriving to cover further casualties in the Test build-up.
Kodi Nikorima could also shift to the halves midway through the match, given he has experience in the No.6 jersey and has been named on the bench.
In comparison, Harris has played five-eighth for New Zealand just once in the corresponding Test in 2014, while he has started at centre six times for Melbourne in his 84-game NRL career.
Nikorima could also be used as a replacement hooker if required, given regular Manly back-rower Lewis Brown is scheduled to start at No.9.
Coach Stephen Kearney has also named uncapped pair Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Manu Ma’u in his starting lineup.
Kiwis: Jordan Kahu, Jason Nightingale, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Gerard Beale, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Tohu Harris, Shaun Johnson, Jesse Bromwich (capt), Lewis Brown, Adam Blair, Kevin Proctor, Manu Ma’u, Jason Taumalolo. Interchange (from): Kodi Nikorima, Greg Eastwood, Martin Taupau, Sam Moa, Brad Takairangi, Kenny Bromwich.