New Zealand's fresh line-up not a 'development side', says Michael Maguire
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 21/06/18 10:39am
New Kiwis boss Michael Maguire has dismissed the notion he will field a developmental side against England in Denver on Saturday.
The former Wigan and South Sydney coach, who has succeeded David Kidwell in the New Zealand hot seat, is part of a rebuilding process as the Kiwis move on from a desperately disappointing World Cup.
On top of a host of defections to Tonga, the Kiwis have been hit by the retirement of Simon Mannering, Ben Matulino and Russell Packer, the non-availability of experienced Warriors trio Shaun Johnson, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Tohu Harris, injuries to Jesse Bromwich and the suspension of captain Adam Blair.
The result is a new-look Kiwis, with seven uncapped players in the 19-man squad preparing for the one-off international at Mile High Stadium, but Maguire insists they are all ready to play for their country.
"There is no way in the world I would ever imagine that if you're playing for your country that it's a development side," Maguire said.
"I've got a very good group of players. They've all got first-grade experience and they're all playing really good football at the moment.
"I think sometimes when you bring a lot of young guys in that hunger and excitement can really lift the jersey to new heights.
"People like Simon Mannering and many others have created their great stories but there's a great opportunity for these younger boys to come in and create their own piece of history around the jersey.
"When you bring a young group, mixed with a good blend of old guys, there's a lot of good things that can happen."
Maguire has delayed the selection of his team but says it is not due to any injury concerns.
"I just want to have a look at the footage from training," he said. "There's a lot of new talent coming into the group and I want to have a close look at the two sessions we've had so far before finalising the team."
Maguire says he still has question marks over centre and back-row spots, but confirmed Dallin Watene-Zelezniak will play at full-back, switching from the wing in place of Tuivasa-Sheck, and Kodi Nikorima will partner Te Maire Martin at half-back.
"We've a pretty handy spine," he said. "I've been impressed with Kodi, he's been very strong in camp, where he's spent a lot of time talking to the players, along with Te Maire. I've been impressed with both those boys."