League: McKendry to make Kiwis debut

Penrith prop Sam McKendry battles through a trio of South Sydney defenders during an NRL clash this season. Photo / Getty Images
Penrith prop Sam McKendry battles through a trio of South Sydney defenders during an NRL clash this season. Photo / Getty Images

Penrith prop Sam McKendry will make his test debut for a Kiwis side showing a number of changes for Saturday night's Four Nations rugby league match with Papua New Guinea at Rotorua.

Coach Stephen Kearney handed McKendry, 21, a starting position in the front row with Sydney Roosters prop Frank-Paul Nuuausala.

McKendry, born in Stirling in Western Australia but raised in Dargaville, appeared in every one of Penrith's 26 National Rugby League games this year and made the final 23-man Kiwis squad as a late replacement for the injured Fuifui Moimoi.

"Sam has worked really hard and earned his first test," Kearney said.

"He played strongly for the New Zealand Maori against England two weeks ago and has kept working to put himself in line to be selected. Everyone's excited for him that he now has his chance."

McKendry and Nuuausala come into the starting line-up for the experienced Adam Blair and Greg Eastwood, who were used in the two test wins against Samoa and England while there's also a change in the second row.

Sika Manu, 18th man against England, will team up with 21-test veteran Simon Mannering while loose forward Jeremy Smith (14 Tests) and hooker Thomas Leuluai (24 Tests) also remain in their starting roles.

The changes result in Eastwood and Bronson Harrison being named on the bench while Frank Pritchard, along with Blair, have been omitted this week.

In the backline, seasoned Sydney Roosters winger Sam Perrett, 25, will play his 17th Test, replacing the injured Manu Vatuvei.

There is one other change on the bench with Rotorua-born Jared Waerea-Hargreaves picked to again play in his home town, where he made his test debut against Tonga a year ago. He comes in for Ben Matulino with Matulino's Warriors clubmate Lewis Brown also named in the 19-man squad.

While the Kiwis and the Kumuls were once familiar rivals playing each other in 15 Tests from 1978 through to 1996, they have met only once since. The New Zealanders prevailed 48-6 in Robina on their way to winning the World Cup in 2008.

KIWIS

Lance Hohaia, Jason Nightingale, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Junior Sa'u, Sam Perrett, Benji Marshall (captain), Nathan Fien, Sam McKendry, Thomas Leuluai, Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Sika Manu, Simon Mannering, Jeremy Smith.

INTERCHANGE

Issac Luke, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Bronson Harrison, Greg Eastwood, Ben Matulino, Lewis Brown.

- NZPA

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