Kiwis must take priority over NRL: Lowe

Daniel Gilhooly

Former New Zealand coach Graham Lowe says any player who puts their NRL club ahead of the black and white jersey should be barred from future Kiwi selection.

Lowe hopes newly-appointed coach Michael Maguire gets full buy-in from the players he wants for next week's Test against England in Denver.

The former Manly and Queensland mentor said he was shocked to learn Ben Matulino and Russell Packer were joining Simon Mannering in retirement this week.

While he understood warhorse Mannering's decision, he was disappointed props Matulino and Packer had made the call in their late 20s.

He said he would be devastated if it was because they were torn by a sense of duty to their Wests Tigers club, with a weekend of rest in Sydney deemed preferable over long haul flights and a lung-busting Test at high altitude.

"I'm surprised. I think they're two of our best front-rowers and they're at the peak of their career," Lowe told AAP.

"I wonder if (the Test match) was in Sydney or Auckland if those retirements would have been announced."

A staunch defender of the international game, Lowe was pleased Maguire's mantra is to only pick players who express a desire to bleed for the Kiwis.

"It will always be an honour and anyone who chooses something else in front of it shouldn't get a chance again," he said.

Maguire has an opportunity to construct a new-look side because of retirements since the World Cup, injuries and players aligning again with Pacific island nations.

Lowe supports Maguire's left-field concept of not naming a captain, believing leaders will emerge in Denver.

Top of Lowe's list to be skipper for the Test against Australia later this year and the tour of Europe is Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson.

"I think the stage is set for Shaun now and that added responsibility could make him."

Johnson shapes as a critical figure next week, with Te Maire Martin and Kodi Nikorima the only other realistic halves options following injuries to veterans Benji Marshall and Kieran Foran.

Maguire can still name a Test-hardened pack, although he may consider the merits of in-form uncapped players such as Penrith second-rower Corey Harawire-Naera and Newcastle duo Slade Griffin and Herman Ese'ese.

Debutants out wide could include Brisbane winger Jamayne Isaako and Wests Tigers centre Esan Marsters.

POSSIBLE KIWIS SQUAD

Backs: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Dallin Watane-Zelezniak, Jamayne Isaako, Dean Whare, Esan Marsters, Pita Hiku, Te Maire Martin, Shaun Johnson, Kodi Nikorima.

Forwards: Adam Blair, Tohu Harris, Joseph Tapine, Corey Harawira-Naera, James Fisher-Harris, Isaac Liu, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Martin Taupau, Issac Luke, Slade Griffin.