Injured backs Steve Matai and Brent Webb have been named in the Kiwis squad for the rugby league World Cup beginning in Australia on October 26.
The 24-strong squad, to be skippered by Parramatta prop Nathan Cayless, has one new cap in Melbourne forward Sika Manu.
Matai, who has been battling a neck problem, was one of the stars in the Sea Eagles’ 40-0 drubbing of Melbourne in the National Rugby League grand final on Sunday.
But the centre finished the match with an icepack on his shoulder.
Fullback Webb missed Leeds’ English Super League grand final victory over St Helens last weekend with a back complaint.
Selection panel convenor Howie Tamati said World Cup rules dictated that the squad had to be named today, but there was optimism that both Matai and Webb would be available.
The final decision would be left to the medical experts and the players themselves, he said.
“Both Steve and Brent have injuries which need to be checked out,” he said.
“But we’re very hopeful they’ll be right for the tournament.”
Wellington-born Manu, 21, established himself as a regular for Melbourne this year after starting his NRL career with three appearances last season.
He is one of four Storm players included in a squad that will assemble in Auckland next Monday to prepare for a build-up test against Tonga at Mt Smart Stadium on October 18.
Cayless is returning as skipper after having led the Kiwis in two tests, in 2001 and in 2004.
A total of 16 players from the squad will also be turning out for the All Golds against the New Zealand Maori in New Plymouth on Sunday.
Those not involved in that game are Matai, Webb, New Zealand Warriors second rower Simon Mannering and the Melbourne quartet of Manu, Jeff Lima, Jeremy Smith and Adam Blair.
Of the 19 players selected for the centenary test defeat to Australia in May, 14 have been chosen for the World Cup.
Roy Asotasi and Frank Pritchard are injured, fellow forward Sonny Bill Williams has switch to rugby union, and backs Jason Nightingale and Ben Roberts have been omitted.
Nightingale is lining up for the New Zealand Maori against the All Golds.
Coach Stephen Kearney said a positive for the Kiwis was the number of players who had been involved in finals football in both the NRL and the English Super League over the past month.
There were also more options in the key positions of fullback, the halves and hooker than Kiwi teams had had for some time, he said.
The Warriors, on the back of an NRL campaign that stopped just short of a grand final appearance, have the largest number of representatives with six, including halfback/hooker Nathan Fien.
Now qualified by residency, Fien returns to the international arena two years after being ruled ineligible to play for the Kiwis, having gained two caps.
Others returning include mercurial standoff Benji Marshall, whose test career has been hampered by injury.