Fifita absence no comfort to Kiwis
RUGBY LEAGUE: New Zealand enforcer Tohu Harris says Australia's pack will still be a force to be reckoned with even without Andrew Fifita.
Fifita was overlooked for selection for this weekend's Test against the Kiwis in Perth because of his controversial message of support on his wrist strapping for convicted one-punch killer Kieran Loveridge.
Melbourne Storm second-rower Harris went head to head with Fifita in the NRL grand final and knows how good a player he can be.
He said the Australians would not be weaker without the front-rower or Aaron Woods, who will also miss the Test at nib Stadium as he is getting married.
"You can't fault anyone who is in that squad now,” he said.
"The (Australian) selectors have got a really tough job selecting that team and the players that they've got in that position at the moment, you don't lose anything.
"They are players who are hard to stop, players who are going to take some tackling to get them down.
"I don't envy the selectors' job in picking those teams but it just puts an emphasis on the fact that we've got a huge challenge ahead of us.”
One of those likely to get the nod on Saturday is 24-year-old Canberra forward Shannon Boyd, who will earn a Test debut if selected by coach Mal Meninga.
Boyd stands at 194cm and weighs 122kg and Harris knows he will be hard to stop.
"He's obviously a very big human,” he said.
"He's someone that has got a lot of size and he runs really hard so that takes some stopping.
"You can't go in passively, you've got to have a lot of intent to stop him and that's not just him, that's pretty much their whole forward pack.
"Our forward pack has got a huge job in the physical side of the game.”
Harris said the Kiwis would not be using the Test in Perth as a warm-up for the Four Nations tournament in England starting later this month.
"We don't see it as a warm-up game, we see it as its own Test match because if you take this week or take this game lightly Australia are a ruthless team that will make you pay,” the 24-year-old said.
"We're going to give it the respect that it deserves and that's playing our best and turning up for the huge challenge that's in front of us.
"It's a Test match against Australia, you don't get a bigger challenge than that, so we're taking that as it is. It's a Test match and we're going to treat it as that.”
New Zealand coach David Kidwell has included two debutants in his 19-man team for the clash.
Warriors centre Solomone Kata and Raiders winger Jordan Rapana are set to make their debuts, while Jared Waerea-Hargreaves will return to international action for the first time since 2013.
Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Thomas Leuluai, Issac Luke and 18th man Joseph Tapine are the only other players in the team who missed May's Anzac Test, which Australia won 16-0 in Newcastle.
New Zealand team: Jordan Kahu, Jason Nightingale, Solomone Kata, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Jordan Rapana, Thomas Leuluai, Shaun Johnson, Jesse Bromwich (c), Issac Luke, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Kevin Proctor, Tohu Harris, Jason Taumalolo. Interchange: Lewis Brown, Martin Taupau, Manu Ma'u, Adam Blair, Joseph Tapine, Gerard Beale.