Hiku gets first shot at NZ pivot spot
Peta Hiku gets the first chance to fill New Zealand's contentious No.6 jersey as England admit to confusion over who they'll face at the scrum base in the upcoming Test series.
Coach Stephen Kearney has partnered Hiku with Warrior Tui Lolohea for Friday night's tour opener against Leeds at Headingley, giving the Sea Eagle an advantage over Kodi Nikorima and Tohu Harris.
"There will be an opportunity for those halves to build combinations with the group around them," said coach Stephen Kearney, in a strong hint this will be his Test combination.
The side includes four uncapped players – Lolohea, Nikorima, Jordan Kahu and Sio Siua Taukeaho.
Injury withdrawals from Kieran Foran and Shaun Johnson plus the overlooking of Benji Marshall have made the halves the biggest selection poser for the Kiwis.
"Although they haven't got a deadset [pairing] I think they got a choice," said England coach Steve McNamara, with a view to the First Test at Hull's KC Stadium in just over a week's time.
"Tohu Harris has played there in the past. Peta Hiku has been spoken about as playing alongside Lolohea in the halves and Nikorima as well.
"Not Issac Luke, I think he's a hooker. He's the number one choice there and so he should be as well."
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Asked his thoughts on the omission of St George Illawarra's Marshall, McNamara said: "I'm certainly not one to judge anyone else's selections."
Marshall's absence means he will not be lining up opposite teammate Gareth Widdop, whose crystal ball over Kearney's likely selections for the upcoming series is equally cloudy.
"Honestly, I'm not really too sure," Widdop said. "They've lost Johnson and Foran. I couldn't tell you. Tohu Harris has played there a bit before.
"For us as England, we've got to worry about ourselves first and foremost."
England will be without fullback Sam Tomkins (knee) – whose selection battle with Zak Hardaker is their most pressing – for Saturday's Test against France at Leigh Sporting Village.
Wigan youngster George Williams is poised to debut alongside Widdop in the halves with Matty Smith and Luke Gale both missing out.
And Ben Thaler will referee the first Anglo- New Zealand Test, Gerard Sutton the second with an appointments panel to determine the third.
An 11th-hour deal means Friday's tour match will be televised in the UK on Premier Sports .
New Zealand side to face Leeds at Headingley on Friday (Saturday 8am, NZ time): Roger Tuivasa-Sheck; Jason Nightingale, Dean Whare, Jordan Kahu, Shaun Kenny-Dowall; Peta Hiku, Tuimoala Lolohea; Ben Matulino, Issac Luke (c), Jesse Bromwich; Tohu Haris, Kevin Proctor, Martin Taupau. Res: Adam Blair (c), Sam Moa, Sio Siua Taukeaho, Alex Glenn, Lewis Brown, Gerard Beale.
This article first appeared on NRL.com