Kodi Nikorima and Thomas Leuluai have paid the price for the Kiwis' embarrassing Rugby League World Cup defeat to Tonga over the weekend.

Cowboys playmaker Te Maire Martin has been handed the number six jumper for the quarter-final clash against Tonga, partnering Shaun Johnson in the halves - while Danny Levi will start at hooker for Leuluai who drops out of the 17 altogether.

It will be Levi's first start in the Kiwis, after coming off the bench in all three tests since making his debut against Samoa in round one.

Nikorima, having started at five-eighth in the loss to Tonga, will come off the interchange.

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"Those changes are made because we think this is the best team to take us forward for the game against Fiji," coach David Kidwell said.

"The young fella in Danny Levi - over the last three games and what we have seen, we as coaches, think he deserves his starting spot.

"Bringing Te Maire Martin into the starting team - his form showed in the Scotland game and we put Kodi Nikorima on the bench to cover the nine, seven and also fullback."

Kidwell has talked about playing a tough but smart brand of football and he hopes the side he's named can get back to that this week in sudden death mode.

"I thought we had the toughness against Tonga but we just needed the smarts," Kidwell said.

"I thought we were missing that in the game against Tonga, particularly with the push around the footy. We thought he did that very well against Scotland. We are looking to utilise his speed and obviously his direction of the team."

Adam Blair will again skipper the side in jersey 13, while three other Wellington men, Jordan Rapana, Joseph Tapine, and Nelson Asofa-Solomona will also get their chance to play in front of their home fans.

Kidwell is aware of the Fijian threat and admits they'll present a different challenge to what the Tongans threw at them last week.

"Fiji are one of the in-form teams. They have scored a lot of points. Their outside backs are the danger men along with some of their big forwards.

"Obviously Jarryd Hayne is a threat - he likes the big games so we have definitely talked about that as a group."

Kiwis v Fiji:
1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
2. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
3. Dean Whare
4. Brad Takairangi
5. Jordan Rapana
6. Te Maire Martin
7. Shaun Johnson
8. Martin Taupau
9. Danny Levi
10. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
11. Simon Mannering
12. Joseph Tapine
13. Adam Blair
14. Nelson Asofa-Solomona
15. Russell Packer
16. Isaac Liu
17. Kodi Nikorima