New Kiwis centre Joseph Manu is still getting to know the players around him and is more familiar with the man he'll mark in tonight's transtasman test against Australia.

The Sydney Roosters premiership winning young gun will make his Kiwis debut at Mt Smart Stadium and line-up against his club centre partner and Kangaroos newcomer Latrell Mitchell.

The Tokoroa-born 22-year-old came through the Roosters' junior system together with the NSW State of Origin star before both players broke through to make their NRL debuts in 2016.

The pair are close mates but Manu is looking forward to initiating a not-so-friendly rivalry as the Kiwis go hunting for their first win over Australia since 2015.


"We started together over in Australia in SG Ball [under 18s] and have come all the way to the NRL," said Manu. "We've been training hard together all year and competing against each other so I'll be looking forward to that and know he will be too. It will be a pretty cool battle and I'll enjoy it."

Manu's rise into the Kiwis comes after he enjoyed a breakout club season and played a starring role for the Roosters throughout the playoffs and in last month's grand final win over Melbourne.

His hard-earned success comes after he overcame some self-doubts and a below-par 2017 season which left him fearing he would spend the year stuck in reserve grade.

"I didn't have a great season last year and at the start of this season I didn't even know if I'd make the starting 13 for the Roosters," he said.

"To get a premiership ring and then be selected for the Kiwis the next day was something I never thought would happen.

"It's obviously a dream come true. After the GF I was over the moon but now that I'm here I know that I've got to do a job for the Kiwis.

"I'm really looking forward to Saturday and my main focus is here and on getting a couple more wins."

Kiwis coach Michael Maguire has been impressed with Manu's maturity throughout the build-up and is confident he'll handle the challenge of containing Mitchell.


Manu was the quiet-achiever in the Roosters backline but declared himself a representative star in the making when he kept Greg Inglis quiet in the semi-final win over South Sydney, before crossing for a first-half try in the decider against the Storm.

"He's a really mature young man. He's had a great experience with what he's gone through this year and he's shown he can step up as he has done every time he's been asked," said Maguire. "This is another opportunity now for him to show what he's capable of at international level."

Manu won't lack for support with "nearly all of Tokoroa" making the trip up for the occasion.

"It's awesome to be here in New Zealand and to play here," he said.

"I'm really happy to play here in front of my family. It should be good for us and New Zealand rugby league, and all the fans."