Kiwis coach David Kidwell has named an inexperienced line-up for the side's opening Rugby League World Cup match against Samoa.

Captain Adam Blair leads the side for the first time in the opener as they look to move on from the defection saga that hindered their build-up.

With Kidwell's omission of experienced players like Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Peta Hiku and Kaitaia's Elijah Taylor, the side has a whole bunch of young guys in the engine room.

Six of the forwards have seven caps between them and the side has four debutants - centre Brad Takairangi and interchange players Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Isaac Liu and Danny Levi.


One of the biggest selections was picking Kodi Nikorima at five-eighth over the in-form Te Maire Martin.

Kidwell put his decision down to Nikorima's winning mentality. Elsewhere, Marty Taupau has supplanted Wests Tigers recruit Russell Packer in the front row, partnering skipper Adam Blair.

Thomas Leuluai will pack down in the scrum between them. In the back row, Kidwell has been forced to resort to Joe Tapine and Kenny Bromwich after the losses of Kevin Proctor, Tohu Harris and Jason Taumalolo.

New Zealand were ravaged before the start of the World Cup with the defections of David Fusitu'a, Manu Ma'u, Sio Siua Taukeiaho and, most notably, Taumalolo.

Kidwell has told the Courier Mail that he was disappointed the Cowboys second rower didn't give him a heads up before changing nations.

"The issue I have is I would have liked Jason to tell me to my face [that he didn't want to play for New Zealand]," Kidwell told the newspaper.

"I can understand why he wanted to play for Tonga and represent his heritage but I just wished he showed me some respect.

"I found out that he wanted to play for Tonga from a third party. He never told me - I still haven't heard from him or spoken to him.

"I'm not going to have any ill feeling towards Jason but if he explained things to me, I would have at least sat down and said, 'okay, what are your reasons?'.

"I would never step in someone's way of representing another country if that player doesn't feel connected to the New Zealand jumper".

Kidwell told the Courier Mail it remains unclear if Taumalolo has an issue with the current Kiwis set-up.

New Zealand: Roger Tuivasa-Scheck, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Gerard Beale, Brad Takairangi, Jordan Rapana, Kodi Nikorima, Shaun Johnson, Martin Taupau, Thomas Leuluai, Adam Blair (c), Kenny Bromwich, Joseph Tapine, Simon Mannering. Reserves: Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Russell Packer, Isaac Liu, Danny Levi.

Samoa: Young Tonumaipea, Peter Mata-utai, Timoteo Lafai, Joseph Leilua, Ken Maumalo, Joseph Paulo, Ben Roberts, Junior Paulo, Jazz Tevaga, Sam Lisone, Josh Papalii, Frank Pritchard (c), Leeson Ah Mau. Reserves: Pita Godinet, Herman Ese'ese, Suaia Matagi, Bunty Afoa.