No captain for Kiwis in Denver: Maguire

Daniel Gilhooly
Simon Mannering made his New Zealand debut in 2006 and played 45 Tests

Michael Maguire will field a New Zealand team severely weakened by retirements and without a captain when they face England in Denver.

In a tumultuous day for the Kiwis, forwards Simon Mannering and Russell Packer followed Ben Matulino in announcing their international retirements, reducing Maguire's options for the controversial June 23 clash.

The coach also turned orthodox thinking on its head by revealing he won't field an official captain.

Instead, veteran forward Adam Blair will be the unofficial team leader.

Blair, the skipper during last year's horrendous World Cup failure, will lead the team onto the field and be the designated spokesman to the referee.

However, Maguire wants to take his time before anointing a permanent skipper for the October Test against Australia, followed by a tour of Europe.

Maguire wants to see candidates emerge from what is shaping as a young, inexperienced side at Mile High Stadium.

"I've had a really good discussion with Blairy and we both felt that we want leadership across the team to lift," he told The New Zealand Herald.

"So we're not going to put a 'c' against the name but everyone is a part of where we're going and there's going to be a new generation of kids coming into the team.

"The captaincy will sort itself out in time."

A host of leadership candidates have dropped by the wayside, including former skipper Mannering, whose Kiwis career ends at 45 Tests.

The Warriors stalwart is the fourth-most capped Kiwi behind Ruben Wiki (55), Gary Freeman (46) and Stacey Jones (46).

Wests Tigers props Matulino and Packer have played 23 and seven Test caps respectively.

There is no suggestion any of the trio were pressured by their clubs, with the distance and timing of the Test considered highly disruptive by many NRL coaches and officials.

Mannering said he would have ideally stretched his career as long as possible but wanted to spend more time with his young family.

"I'm really excited about the direction Michael wants to take the team. It's about restoring that pride and honour back in the jersey," he said.

"The idea of taking a Test to the United States is really exciting for the game but I think it's a good time for younger players to be given every opportunity."

The 19-strong squad unveiled on Sunday will be decimated by injury, with the likes of halves Benji Marshall and Kieran Foran almost certainly unavailable, along with Melbourne Storm prop Jesse Bromwich.

Warriors skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is in serious doubt while Maguire is reportedly monitoring the fitness of the Auckland club's key playmakers, Shaun Johnson and Issac Luke, who have taken their share of knocks.

Maguire expects to be without all the New Zealand-eligible players who represented Tonga at the World Cup.

North Queensland star Jason Taumalolo is still to publicly announce his allegiance.

However, he is expected to match the move of in-form Warriors flyer David Fusitu'a and stick with Tonga for their Test against Samoa in Sydney.