Tuesday 27 September 2011 | Published in Regional
Kiwi selectors are pulling no punches for the upcoming Rarotonga test match, naming four top players including captain Benji Marshall in its touring squad.
The visiting team should be identical or close to the same team that won the Four Nations trophy last year.
With the full squad yet to be named, the four players named yesterday are from teams already knocked out of the NRL competition.
Marshall comes into the squad after the Wests Tigers were eliminated from the NRL title race last Friday night by the Warriors.
St George Illawarra winger Jason Nightingale and halfback-hooker Nathan Fien have been added following the Dragons loss to Brisbane in their semi-final on Saturday night.
Also joining the squad is Newcastle centre Junior Sau.
Cook Islands Rugby League president Charles Carlson said the Kiwis appear not to be taking any risks and are naming a full-strength squad for the October 6 match against the Cook Islands.
They have obviously got some inside information of the CI squad who is fielding their top team that have a lot of NRL experience, Carlson said.
This is their opportunity to shine against the big boys of league.
Carlson said the Cook Islands team was using this special opportunity at the BCI Stadium as a tester for the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.
He said the match provides an exceptional opportunity for the young wave of Cook Islands players to gain experience at a first class level.
And though it will be a tough test, Carlson said the rugby league fraternity in the Cook Islands was excited by the chance to face the Kiwi squad.
This is part of our build up to the World Cup 2013 and by then many of these young players will just be peaking in their career, Carlson said.
Our aim for the World Cup is that every player in that final World Cup squad will be full time NRL players.
That is the reality and for the Cook Islands to be very competitive at that level, we have got to have a full squad that is fully playing professional like Kiwis and other teams.
After the October 6 warm-up match at Rarotonga, New Zealand will play Australia on October 16 at Ausgrid Stadium in Newcastle.
Their next match will be their opener for the Four Nations campaign, also against the Kangaroos, on October 28 at Warrington in England.