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Coach rubs salt in Benji snub

NEW Zealand coach Stephen Kearney has put to bed any doubt as to whether Dragons halfback Benji Marshall has been black-listed from the Test line up by picking Manly winger Peta Hiku at five-eighth for the Kiwis opening tour match against Leeds.
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ON DECK: Dragons winger Jason Nightingale has been selected on the wing for New Zealand’s opening UK tour match against Leeds Rhinos. Picture: Chris Chan

Kearney has repeatedly denied putting a permanent line through Marshall’s name but it would be hard to draw any other conclusion given the selection of Hiku as a makeshift halves option alongside Warriors rookie Tuimoala Lolohea in the halves Saturday’s clash

Marshall suffered a syndesmosis injury in the Dragons week one finals loss to the Bulldogs but was available for selection.

With regular halves Shaun Johnson and Kieran Foran both unavailable for the tour through injury,Marshall’s experience would have been valuable in a squad full of debutants.

But the former Test captainwas overlooked in favour of rookies Lolohea and Kodi Nikorima who was named on the bench.

“This will be an opportunity for those two halves to build combinations with the group around them,” Kearney said.

“We also have guys that haven’t played since the last round of the NRL.

“This is a chance for them to blow out some cobwebs.”

Dragons winger Jason Nightingale was selected for the match.

Leeds have picked up the League Leaders Shield, Challenge Cup and Super League Trophy this season.

“This will be perfect preparation for us,” Kearney said.

“Leeds will be honouring some special players so we’reexpecting a full house.”

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