A new version of the two-year-old challenge trophy honouring the New Zealand Rugby League's ambassador Peter Leitch has been struck for Saturday night's first-ever Test between the Kiwis and Toa Samoa at Mount Smart Stadium.
The trophy started life as the Peter Leitch QSM Challenge Trophy in 2008, to be contested whenever the Kiwis play one of the Pacific nations.
They claimed the trophy by beating Tonga in Auckland two years ago and defended it against the same opponents in Rotorua last year.
But when they seek to retain the honour on Saturday night they will not only be doing so against new opposition but they will also be eyeing a new piece of silverware which has been upgraded to reflect the now-knighted Peter Leitch's new title.
Toa Samoa today revealed its line-up for the contest for the Sir Peter Leitch Challenge Trophy, confirming three former Kiwis in Francis Meli on the wing, captain Tony Puletua at prop and Ali Lauitiiti on the interchange bench. For Meli and Lauitiiti the match brings them back to a ground which was home to them for many years during their Vodafone Warriors careers. Meli played 110 times for the club from 1999-2005 and Lauitiiti 115 times from 1998-2004 before they joined St Helens and Leeds respectively. Meli played the last of his 14 Tests for the Kiwis in 2004 while Lauitiiti's 19-Test Kiwi career ended in 2006.
However, while the Samoans will have those three ex-Kiwis and three more in David Solomona, David Faiumu and Harrison Hansen - all based in England - they'll be without another one in halfback Ben Roberts (Canterbury-Bankstown) who was today ruled out with injury. He has been replaced by Auckland Vulcans half Pita Godinet, recently signed by the Vodafone Warriors on an off-season training programme.
It also seems Samoa will have to find another fullback. Canberra's Daniel Vidot has been named in the position but it has been reported he will pull out of the side due to his desire to pursue State of Origin selection for Queensland in the future. He has been told he would not be eligible if he plays in this Test for Samoa.
Meanwhile, the Kiwis had a quiet day with the players being given time off from training today. This evening they all reconvened for what has become a traditional family dinner, this time a hangi served at a total immersion Maori school next door to the Millennium Institute on the North Shore where the Kiwis have been staying since assembling last Saturday. The team moves to The Heritage in central Auckland tomorrow before having a final run at the Test venue in the afternoon, followed later by the Test dinner.
Earlier today captain Benji Marshall and coach Stephen Kearney were at Mount Smart Stadium for a media conference with the captains and coaches of the other three sides involved in Saturday night's historic doubleheader (England's Adrian Morley and Steve McNamara, Samoa's Tony Puletua and Steve Price and the Maori side's Clinton Toopi and Richie Blackmore).
The two matches will bring together the greatest collection of rugby league talent seen in New Zealand at the same venue on the same day, the four squads collectively boasting some 80 players from NRL or Super League clubs.
TEST MATCH KIWIS v TOA SAMOA
MOUNT SMART STADIUM, AUCKLAND 7.30PM, SATURDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2010 REFEREE: SHANE REHM (NEW ZEALAND)
1 DANIEL VIDOT (Canberra) 2 FRANCIS MELI (St Helens) 3 FRANK WINTERSTEIN (Crusaders) 4 GEORGE CARMONT (Wigan) 5 WILLIE ISA (Melbourne) 6 JOSEPH PAULO (Penrith) 7 PITA GODINET (Auckland Vulcans) 8 TONY PULETUA (c) (St Helens) 9 MASAD IOSEFA (Penrith) 10 MARK TAUFUA (Newcastle) 11 HARRISON HANSEN (Wigan) 12 DAVID SOLOMONA (Bradford) 13 DAVID FAIUMU (Huddersfield) Interchange: 14 JOSH McGUIRE (Brisbane) 15 ALI LAUITIITI (Leeds) 16 TERENCE SEUSEU (Manly) 17 CONSTANTINE MIKA (Newcastle) 18 QUENTIN TOGAGA'E (Souths Logan)
COACH: STEVE PRICE
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