Benji Marshall is back in the Kiwis – and thrilled to be there.

After an absence of seven years, the former Kiwis captain has been named in the team to face Tonga this Saturday.

Another veteran Kieran Foran is also back in the fold, while Cronulla second rower Briton Nikora is the bolter in the squad.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck also returns – after missing the tests last year and Dallin Watene Zelezniak is back as captain.

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Marshall last played for the Kiwis in 2012, in the end of year test in Townsville against the Kangaroos.

Kiwis coach Michael Maguire said Marshall's selection had been a reward for strong club form, and the leadership he had exhibited at the Tigers over the last 18 months.

Maguire revealed that Marshall was "ecstatic" in his reaction, when he delivered the news in a phone call on Saturday.

The absence of Kodi Nikorima – who picked up a groin strain in the win over the Titans on Friday night – may have opened the door for Marshall but his recall is well deserved.

The 34-year-old has enjoyed something of a career renaissance over the last two seasons, and has impressed with his game management and organisation.

He's also thrived under the coaching of Maguire at the Tigers and the two have obviously developed a close relationship.

Marshall's international career looked over a few years ago. He fell out of favour with Stephen Kearney, then made the ill-fated switch to the Blues midway through the 2013 season.

Upon his return to the NRL he never looked like getting a recall, as Kearney wanted to pursue other options and build for the future.

David Kidwell also never pursued the option of selecting Marshall, but things have obviously changed under Maguire.

It's a fairytale for Marshall, who remains one of the proudest men to wear the black and white V and has never given up on wearing the Kiwis jersey again, even though it looked unlikely.

Foran returns to a New Zealand squad for the first time since the 2017 Anzac Test in Canberra, his 21st international.

Tokoroa-born Zane Tetevano is one of three players in line to make their Kiwi test debuts on Saturday night.

The 28-year-old was originally selected for last year's end of season campaign against Australia and England before being ruled out with injury following the Roosters' grand final win.

The other players in line to debut are Melbourne utility Jahrome Hughes and Tauranga-born Nikora, who made his NRL debut in the opening round this season.

Nikorima and Canberra's Jordan Rapana and Joseph Tapine have been ruled out by their clubs while Warriors second rower Tohu Harris was also unavailable.

In all, 14 of the 19 players were involved in last year's campaigns. As well as Marshall and Foran, Warriors captain and fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck – who has scored 13 tries in 16 tests – makes his return to the Kiwis after last appearing in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.

Kiwis team to play Tonga: Leeson Ah Mau (Warriors), Nelson Asofa-Solomona (Storm), Jesse Bromwich (Storm), Kenneath Bromwich (Storm), James Fisher-Harris (Panthers), Kieran Foran (Bulldogs), Jahrome Hughes (Storm), Shaun Johnson (Sharks), Isaac Liu (Roosters), Joseph Manu (Roosters), Benji Marshall (Tigers), Esan Marsters (Tigers), Ken Maumalo (Warriors), Briton Nikora (Sharks), Brandon Smith (Storm), Zane Tetevano (Roosters), Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Warriors), Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Roosters), Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (Bulldogs).