Sharks centre Gerard Beale has been selected in the New Zealand squad for the tour of England during October and November.
A consistent performer throughout the season, Beale has previously played seven Tests for his country of birth and was a member of the Kiwi squad which was successful in winning the Four Nations tournament in 2014.
Beale was one of just three Sharks players to run out in every game during the 2015 season.
He is the only Cronulla player to make the touring party, with Sosaia Feki previously named in the train-on squad but omitted from the final 23-man squad.
Beale becomes a member of a team in which veterans Adam Blair and Issac Luke have been entrusted with co-captaincy of the NZ Kiwis, with the duo named by head coach Stephen Kearney to share the role that became vacant when incumbent Simon Mannering was ruled out of the tour for medical reasons earlier this week.
“I think, in big games, he has delivered for us before,” Kearney said of Blair. “He’s been in the programme for quite some time and knows what’s expected – I see it as a natural choice.”
As for Luke, the new Warrior recruit has played 33 tests for New Zealand, two more than Blair, having made his debut in the 2008 Anzac Test and then coming off the bench for the World Cup triumph later that year.
“Issac is very highly respected within the group and, again, has been part of the programme for a long time,” says Kearney.
“He’s definitely one that’s grown over the course of his Kiwis career, both as a footballer and a leader.”
They will lead a strong group that includes six rookies – utility backs Jordan Kahu and Tuimoala Lolohea, wing Curtis Rona, hooker/half Kodi Nikorima, and forwards Isaac Liu and Sio Siua Taukeiaho.
“There’s nothing we can do about the players that are unavailable,” says Kearney. “They’re all injuries that we have no control over, but they give opportunities to some younger guys, who perhaps only need that opportunity to rise to the next level.”
The tour itinerary for the New Zealand Tour of the UK is:
Friday, October 23 v Leeds Rhinos @ Leeds
Sunday, November 1 v England @Hull
Saturday, November 7 v England @ London
Saturday, November 14 v England @ Wigan
The NZ Kiwis squad to tour England in October/November is:
Gerard Beale - Cronulla Sharks
Manly Sea Eagles
South Sydney Rabbitohs
St George Dragons
Sio Siua Taukeiaho
North Queensland Cowboys