New Zealand head coach Brian McClennan insists the selection of his side ahead of Saturday night’s Tri-Nations opener against the Kangaroos was a surprisingly easy process.
With the 24 players named in his squad last week free from injury and all available for the clash at Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland, McClennan believes his 17-man line-up has what it takes to overcome the star-studded Australian outfit.
"It (the selection process) pretty well took care of itself. We are really pleased with the 17 and I think we would be just as pleased if a couple of the other boys were in as well," McLennan said.
"We had some good choices to make. There weren’t hard ones. They were all fine."
The most surprising positional selection is that of New Zealand Warriors youngster and uncapped Kiwi Simon Mannering at lock.
Having just finished his second season with the NRL club, the towering speedster will head into the Test with more experience at centre, where he spent most of his time this year.
However, McClennan says Mannering’s ability to play in a number of positions contributed to his selection in the forwards.
"He’s played in the forwards before. He’s played in the centres for the Warriors and he has done a good job but he has played in the forwards before," McClellan said.
"He’s big, tall and he’s very fast. I’ve always liked to have somebody with good speed in the middle of the park."
With a number of players having last taken to the field when the regular NRL season finished at the end of August, McClennan has downplayed concerns surrounding their match fitness.
"As far as match play goes, we haven’t had a lot," he said.
However, the Kiwis coach believes training has progressed well and that the players’ fitness is exactly where he would like it to be.
"Our conditioning has been going along really well," added McClennan. "I have said from the start that this is a team that is going to improve each game."
"That doesn’t mean that we are counting out our chances for this game. We will be aiming up and doing the best we can."
New Zealand squad: Brent Webb, Tame Tupou, Iosia Soliola, Steve Matai, Manu Vatuvei, Nigel Vagana, Stacey Jones, Ruben Wiki, Dene Halatau, Roy Asotasi, David Kidwell, Tony Puletua, Simon Mannering.
Reserves: Jerome Ropati, Nathan Cayless, Adam Blair, Frank Pritchard.