James Leuluai, one of the finest test centres in New Zealand rugby league, is relishing the prospect of assisting Daniel Anderson to coach the Kiwis against Australia this season.
"It's a great opportunity. This is a very exciting time to be involved at international level, with a new coach starting a new era," Leuluai said yesterday.
New Zealand Rugby League chairman Selwyn Pearson announced that Anderson had co-opted his New Zealand Warriors assistant coach, Tony Kemp, and Leuluai to work with him for the home and away tests against Australia.
Anderson said Leuluai's presence would give "balance" to the Kiwis coaching staff.
"He's on the right pathways with the Junior Kiwis and Bartercard Cup. You look for balance when you are picking teams, and even with staff you need a balance," Warriors coach Anderson said.
"A lot of people had very similar qualities but I was looking for the best fit."
It was expected Anderson would retain his combination with Kemp, and by choosing Leuluai he is starting afresh with new coaching staff while preserving a link with the Bartercard Cup domestic competition.
Deposed Kiwis coach Gary Freeman had Wellington and former Canterbury Bulls coach Gerard Stokes as his assistant.
Leuluai was in charge of the Junior Kiwis last season and has moulded Eastern Manukau Tornadoes into one of the strongest Bartercard Cup sides.
"Daniel saw James as an innovative coach who had done well with the Junior Kiwis and Tornadoes," Pearson said.
Both Kemp and Leuluai enjoyed long and illustrious international and professional careers.
Originally from Taranaki, the versatile and resilient Kemp appeared in 25 tests between 1989 and 1995, playing centre, fullback, stand-off and second-row.
He played for Newcastle Knights and South Queensland Crushers in Australia and British clubs' Castleford, Leeds and Wakefield Trinity.
After a short stint as Wakefield's coach, Kemp returned to New Zealand and joined Anderson at the revitalised Warriors.
Dubbed "James the Finisher" for his outstanding try-scoring feats, the twinkle-toed Leuluai touched down 14 times in 29 tests between 1979 and 1986.
Leuluai, Gary Kemble, Dane O'Hara, and Fred Ah Kuoi, comprised a famous Kiwis backline quartet which made Hull one of the most powerful British clubs of the 1980s.
Anderson has yet to make a recommendation to the NZRL about his Kiwis selection panel.