Ronaldo Mulitalo will wear the black jersey of the Kiwis for the first time, alongside him Briton Nikora suiting up for his fifth appearance in New Zealand colours, while Sione Katoa debuts for Tonga when Sharks teammate plays Sharks teammate in what shapes as an intense Pacific Test Match in Auckland on Saturday.
Featuring two massive forward packs, the game to be played at Mount Smart Stadium, kicking off 3.20pm (AEST), could be the highlight of the representative round of matches as the Kiwis look to reestablish themselves as a rugby league powerhouse as the Tongan’s aim to continue their impressive run of international results.
For the Sharks involved, of Samoan heritage but born in New Zealand, Mulitalo gets his opportunity to put an uncomfortable period in regards to his representative eligibility well and truly behind him when he runs out for the Kiwis.
Potentially standing opposite him will be friend and fellow Shark Katoa, this time in the red of Mate Ma’a Tonga.
Having represented Tonga in a Nines tournament in 2019, the Test tomorrow will be Katoa’s first at full international level, his inclusion a reward for his outstanding form and spectacular try scoring exploits for the Sharks over the past few seasons.
While in Nikora, who has become a regular in the Kiwi forward pack since making his international debut back in 2019, coach Michael Maguire will be looking for some impact off the bench after selecting the Sharks backrower as an interchange player.
In other team news, the Parramatta duo of Dylan Brown and Marata Niukore will join Mulitalo as New Zealand debutants, with Brown will partner the Storm’s Jahrome Hughes in the halves.
Forward Moses Leota is the fourth debutant named by Maguire, the Panthers prop joining Kieran Foran, Nelson Asofa-Solomona and Nikora on the Kiwi bench.
As for Mate Ma'a Tonga, having been overlooked by NSW for Origin Two, Kotoni Staggs will partner Dragons young gun Talatau Amone in the halves, Manly’s Christian Tuipulotu, like wing partner Katoa, makes his Test debut, with the Tongan backline also featuring Parramatta's Will Penisini, Manly flyer Tolu Koula and Dragon Moses Suli.
In his 14th international for his country Jason Taumalolo will co-captain the team alongside respected Rooster Siosiua Taukeiaho, who plays his 12th Test for Tonga.
Tonga are under the control of caretaker coach Dean Young for this match with Kristian Woolf unavailable because of English Super League duties with St Helens.
CLICK HERE for match details and the two 20-man squad lists.
Also on Saturday after Pacific Tests between Samoa and the Cook Islands, and Fiji v Papua New Guinea.
The Sharks and Newtown Jets will be represented by Kayal Iro in the Cook Islands team. Iro will play fullback in the match to be played at Campbelltown Stadium, kicking off at 5.40pm.
CLICK HERE for Cooks Islands v Samoa team lists
CLICK HERE for Fiji v PNG