Rapana, Kata in as Kidwell tweaks NZ squad

Raiders NRL flyer Jordan Rapana will make his Kiwis debut after being named in new coach David Kidwell’s starting XIII against Australia.

Rapana, 27, burst onto the Kiwis radar in 2016 after nabbing 23 tries and 26 line breaks in a break-out season with the Green Machine.

The Wellington winger only made his Raiders debut at the end of 2014 after a prolonged period out of the game on a Mormon mission and in rugby union.

Joining Rapana as a Kiwi debutant will be Tongan-born Warriors centre Solomone Kata, rewarded after scoring 15 tries for his NRL side.

The inclusion of Rapana and Kata are just two of Kidwell’s seven changes to the run-on squad that failed to score a point in the Anzac Test loss in Newcastle.

Storm utility Tohu Harris moves to the back row to accommodate the 21-year-old Kata, with Parramatta’s Manu Ma’u moving to the bench.

Joining Kata at centre will be Roosters gun Shaun Kenny-Dowall, reinstated to the Kiwis fold after a foot injury.

His Roosters teammate Jared Waerea-Hargreaves will also pull on the black jumper again after being omitted by former boss Stephen Kearney for three years.

He’ll partner skipper Jesse Bromwich in the front row, with veteran Adam Blair moving to the bench.

Warriors rake Issac Luke replaces Lewis Brown in the starting side after missing the Anzac Test due to poor club form.

In the halves, the absence of Kieran Foran and Kodi Nikorima has been solved through the inclusion of Wigan-bound playmaker Thomas Leuluai.

The ex-Warrior will play alongside former club teammate Shaun Johnson at five-eighth.

Foran, Nikorima, incumbent fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, prop Ben Matulino and second rower Alex Glenn were unavailable for selection.

Former skipper and Warriors stalwart Simon Mannering will also miss the Test in Perth with a knee complaint but will travel with the squad to the Four Nations.

KIWIS: Jordan Kahu, Jason Nightingale, Solomone Kata, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Jordan Rapana, Thomas Leuluai, Shaun Johnson, Jesse Bromwich (capt), Issac Luke, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Kevin Proctor, Tohu Harris, Jason Taumalolo. RESERVES: Lewis Brown, Martin Taupau, Manu Ma’u, Adam Blair. STAND-BY: Joseph Tapine, Gerard Beale.

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