Melbourne prop Jesse Bromwich has been retained as New Zealand skipper to face Australia and the Four Nations rugby league campaign despite the return of Simon Mannering.
Bromwich, 27, led from the front as the Storm fell short of a premiership victory last Sunday, going down to Cronulla 14-12.
Choosing to keep Bromwich as captain after leading the Test side in May’s Anzac Day clash with Australia, new Kiwis boss David Kidwell said Mannering would remain an important cog in his side for the Test in Perth on October 15 and the following Four Nations tournament.
“He (Mannering) was really happy to keep Jesse as captain and that just shows you the person he is,” Kidwell said on Tuesday.
“At this stage of his career, I think Simon is just as happy not having the weight of captaincy on him.”
Bromwich, capped 18 times, had impressed Kidwell with his leadership skills in the Anzac Test in Newcastle, which the Kiwis lost 16-0.
“The way he is around the group – very humble. He’s another great leader and down at the Storm they think very highly of him,” Kidwell said.
In other selections, in-form Raiders winger Jordan Rapana is one of five uncapped players named in the 24-man squad after a breakthrough season that netted the 27-year-old 23 tries.
He is joined by club teammate Joseph Tapine along with Warriors backs David Fusitu’a and Solomone Kata, who has previously played for Tonga, and Panthers playmaker Te Maire Martin in the side for the first time.
Roosters enforcer Jared Waerea-Hargreaves has also made the squad for the first time since the 2013 World Cup, while Dally M joint-winner Jason Taumalolo will line up at lock.
The most notable absentee from the Kiwis set-up is Warriors veteran Manu Vatuvei, who has made 28 appearances for New Zealand but struggled for form in 2016.
“I’ve got the utmost respect for Manu and what he’s done in the jersey, but I felt at this time and this stage, we’ve gone with other people,” Kidwell said.
Incumbent fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, playmaker Kieran Foran and prop Ben Matulino were unavailable for selection due to injury, as were Broncos duo Kodi Nikorima and Alex Glenn.
Prodigious Panthers back-rower James Fisher-Harris, Warriors utility Tuimoala Lolohea and Cowboys back Kalyn Ponga also missed out on selection.