Hansen earns surprise New Zealand call-up

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The Independent Online

Harrison Hansen, who starts his comeback for Wigan tonight after three months out, is the surprise inclusion in New Zealand's squad to play Great Britain later this month.

The 20-year-old second-rower, born in New Zealand but brought up in Britain, where his father played for Swinton and Salford, has recovered from an ankle injury which has kept him out since March.

He is now fit enough to be in Brian Noble's plans at Headingley, although he will make his return in the Under-21s rather than the first team. He has also caught the eye of the Kiwi coach, Brian McClennan, who has put him in the party for the international at St Helens on 27 June.

Although Hansen has played for England at Under-18 level, McClennan says he is "a proud Kiwi who wants to play for his country" and has moved quickly to lay claim to him.

McClennan has also selected Robbie Paul, who has found a new lease on life at Huddersfield. He could partner Stacey Jones at half-back, with the Catalan Dragons player the likely choice to captain the side. Paul admitted to being taken aback by his selection. "I didn't think my international career was over, but I have to admit this has come as a surprise," he said. "I didn't think they were picking any old soldiers."

The squad includes just six players from the southern hemisphere's NRL competition, only two of whom - Melbourne's David Kidwell and Clinton Toopi, who is joining Leeds next season - have full caps. Noble is due to name his Great Britain side for their one game before the Tri-Nations next week.

Leeds have rested Danny McGuire for their meeting with Wigan, with their captain, Kevin Sinfield, moving to stand-off to take his place. Wigan will be without David Vaealiki, who has a thigh strain, with Nathan McAvoy his likely replacement.

The Catalan Dragons have made their first signing for next season, in the shape of the Canberra centre or winger, Adam Mogg, who has been named in Queensland's side for the second State of Origin match next week. Mogg will arrive in November on a three-year contract.

The Dragons' latest recruit from the French domestic competition, Younes Khattabi, is in the squad to play at Huddersfield on Sunday. The 21-year-old outside back has joined the Dragons' sister club, UTC, which makes him eligible for Super League selection.

The St Helens prop, Nick Fozzard, has agreed a two-year contract extension until the end of the 2008 season. Saints will play their Powergen Challenge Cup semi-final against the competition's surprise team, Hull Kingston Rovers, at Huddersfield on 29 July. The other semi-final, between Huddersfield and Leeds, will be at Odsal the next day.

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