Whanganui has supplied five of the 24-strong New Zealand Heartland XV to tackle Rugby World Cup contenders Samoa at Eden Park.

Former NZ Heartland Player of the Year Lindsay Horrocks (2015-2016) returns, fellow national Heartland old hands Campbell Hart (2018) and Craig Clare (2017-2018) are named, while Peni Nabainivalu (2018 and in 2016 for Buller) and newcomer Timoci Serawalu also join the fray.

All are Wanganui union players, although Serawalu is currently on loan to Horwhenua-Kapiti.

The match against Samoa is the opening game of the Pasifika Challenge II, the double header also features Tonga v Fiji as part of their Rugby World Cup preparation.


Players will play for their provinces in round one of the Heartland Championship this weekend before assembling in Auckland next Monday, August 26.

The match against Samoa kicks off at 2pm on Saturday, August 31.

Steelform Whanganui play Wairarapa Bush this weekend and will be without four players for next weekend's clash with Thames Valley.

New Zealand Heartland XV Coach Mark Rutene said the players were excited about the challenge ahead of them before their assembly in Auckland next week.

"Opportunities like this don't come around every day. We are calling this our test match, it's the biggest game our Heartland team has played. It's against a passionate and proud international side and it's at Eden Park. Both teams can look forward to that."

With the core of the squad from the 2018 campaign returning in 2019, Rutene said those connections will be key in next week's build up.

"It definitely gives us some comfort that we have worked with a lot of the players before, so we should be able to hit the ground running."

Last year's captain Alex Bradley has retired but Rutene notes there is plenty of experience in the team, namely Thames Valley captain Brett Ranga in the forwards and backline veterans James Lash and Craig Clare.


Poverty Bay's Mark Atkins and Adrian Wyrill also bring first class experience, both having previously played Mitre 10 Cup.

Rutene said 32 players were named in a wider squad last month and he expects they have put in some hard work.

"We know that these players are coming off a diet of club rugby, they'll have one Heartland (Championship) match under their belt before facing international opposition, that's a big step up but one they are all looking forward to."

Rutene said motivation for the team was simple.

"These guys are pulling on a black jersey. On top of that, Sir Brian Lochore passed away a few weeks ago and he was one of the greatest champions of heartland rugby. It will be about his legacy and we are hoping to put on a performance everyone can be proud of."

The 2019 NZ Heartland XV

Mark Atkins (Poverty Bay), Scott Cameron (Horowhenua-Kapiti), Carl Carmichael (King Country), Josh Clarke (North Otago), Ralph Darling (North Otago), James Goodger (Wairarapa Bush), Campbell Hart (Wanganui), Meli Kolinisau (North Otago), Seta Koroitamana (Mid Canterbury), Glen McIntyre (Thames Valley), Brett Ranga (Thames Valley), Troy Tauwhare (West Coast), Adrian Wyrill (Poverty Bay).

Craig Clare (Wanganui), Sione Holani (West Coast), Lindsay Horrocks (Wanganui), Harry Lafiuanei (Thames Valley), James Lash (Buller), Kalavini Leatigaga (South Canterbury), Peni Nabainivalu (Wanganui), Willie Paiaua (Horowhenua-Kapiti), Timoci Serawalu (Wanganui on loan to Horowhenua-Kapiti), William Wright (South Canterbury), Matt Fetu (South Canterbury) is on stand by.