Foran named to start at No.9 as Kiwis target Australia

New Zealand veteran Kieran Foran has been named to start at hooker against Australia in the Pacific Cup clash after the playmaker did such a good job of it against Samoa.

The 33-year-old Gold Coast five-eighth has played the utility role in recent Tests for the Kiwis in the No.14 and in a late switch was asked to start at rake in Saturday's 50-0 win over Samoa.

Foran was magnificent in his 58 minutes of game time. He made 31 tackles, eight runs and passed the ball 95 times while sharing the role with Fa'amanu Brown who had been initially named to start.

Saturday's clash in Melbourne will be the first time in his 30-Test career that Foran has been named at No.9 but by doing so coach Michael Maguire can get his best players on the park at the start of the game.

It gives the Kiwis another quality kicking option in the spine and frees up halves Dylan Brown and Jahrome Hughes, who both ran the ball at every opportunity in the blitz of Samoa.

Brown had 22 runs for a stunning 193m and Hughes ran 23 times for 122m to showcase their strengths.

Both halves will hope to take on the line against Australia but are unlikely to get as much room to move as they did against Samoa.

The Kiwis will go in search for their first win over the Kangaroos since 2018, but due to COVID the sides have met only twice in the last five years.

New Zealand and Australia have both already qualified to meet in the Pacific Cup final in Hamilton on November 4 but Maguire has shown his hand by naming an unchanged 17 from the outfit that overpowered Samoa.

The intention is clear the Kiwis are keen to win both games against the Australians as they take key early steps in preparation for the 2026 World Cup.

The Kiwis front-row will be led by Penrith premiership-winning warriors James Fisher-Harris and Moses Leota.

Canberra's Joseph Tapine is at lock and coming off the bench is Melbourne destroyer Nelson Asofa-Solomona. The quartet loom as potential match winners in what is a fearsome middle forward rotation.