New Zealand announce training squad ahead of World Cup
Last Updated: September 14, 2013 7:24pm
Benji Marshall: Heading to rugby unioin
Benji Marshall was the stand-out omission as New Zealand named their first training squad ahead of the World Cup.
The 2010 Golden Boot winner is leaving the code to take up a contract with Super Rugby side the Blues, and as such has told Kiwi selectors he is not going to be available.
The absence of the 28-year-old will serve as a blow to coach Stephen Kearney, although it had appeared as though the Wests Tigers half-back would not be a first-choice selection anyway, with Kieran Foran and Shaun Johnson likely to occupy the six and seven shirts.
It now appears, barring a U-turn, that Marshall has played his 27th and last New Zealand game, 19 of which have been as captain.
"We're naturally disappointed to not have Benji available for World Cup selection," said selector Tony Iro.
"We understand the circumstances and wish him well. He'll always be a Kiwi brother and he has done wonders not only for rugby league in New Zealand, but the game in general."
Included in the 17-man squad named on Wednesday was former Wigan half-back Thomas Leuluai, now with the New Zealand Warriors, with all the players named so far signed to clubs out of the NRL play-offs.
New Zealand name their 24-man World Cup squad on October 8 and begin their campaign on October 27 against Samoa in Warrington.
New Zealand train-on squad: Adam Blair (Wests Tigers), Lewis Brown (Penrith), Bronson Harrison (St George), Alex Glenn, Josh Hoffman (both Brisbane), Shaun Johnson, Thomas Leuluai, Kevin Locke (all New Zealand Warriors), Sam McKendry (Penrith), Simon Mannering, Ben Matulino (both New Zealand Warriors), Jason Nightingale (St George), Sam Rapira (New Zealand Warriors), Tim Simona (Wests Tigers), Elijah Taylor, Manu Vatuvei (both New Zealand Warriors), Dean Whare (Penrith).