WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) Prop Russell Packer has been recalled to the New Zealand rugby league team after a six-year absence for Friday’s one-off test against Australia in Canberra.
Packer played the most-recent of his two tests for the Kiwis in 2011. In 2013 he was convicted in Sydney of assault and sentenced to two years in prison, though the sentence was later reduced to one year on appeal.
He returned to Australia’s National Rugby League in 2016 on a two-year contract with St. George Illawarra.
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”Russell’s one of those feel good stories, from where he’s come from to the way he’s playing this year,” New Zealand coach David Kidwell said.
”The excitement in his voice when I gave him a call last week, he’s really hungry to get back into the Kiwis and that’s something that I want the feel of in the Kiwis environment, that hunger.”
Kidwell has also named five eighths Kieran Foran and recalled former captain Simon Mannering and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, who missed last year’s Four Nations tournament with injuries.
”Simon’s experience in any squad is invaluable, he’s been a leader in our side for a long time so it’s fantastic to have him fit and ready,” Kidwell said. ”Kieran’s been playing some good footy this year and his combination with Shaun Johnson and Roger at the back is certainly benefiting from the more time they all spend together too.”
Kidwell has named prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona and hooker Brandon Smith from the Melbourne Storm to make their Kiwis debuts.