New Zealand have suffered a double injury blow in the build-up to tomorrow's Test against Great Britain at St Helens.
The loss of Saints' Francis Meli and Jason Cayless - both hurt in the win over Salford on Saturday - has further depleted the world champion Kiwis, already without most of their Australian-based stars.
Meli has damaged ankle and knee ligaments and will be replaced by Warrington's Henry Fa'afili. "He will miss our game, but we're relieved for him that he won't miss the rest of the season," the Kiwi coach, Brian McClennan, said.
Cayless has suffered the recurrence of a back problem and has decided to pull out. New Zealand considered drafting in the Bradford prop, Joe Vagana, but he has a shoulder injury.
"These injuries are disappointing but they are to be expected," McClennan said. "Quite often as Kiwis we have things stacked against us. It's not foreign ground to us."
One piece of good news for them is that Stacey Jones came safely through the Catalan Dragons' win over Harlequins on Saturday, linked up with the party yesterday and will captain the side at Knowsley Road.
Meanwhile, the regular Kiwi Test full-back, Brent Webb, one of a host of players not released for this match by his National Rugby League club the New Zealand Warriors, is to join Leeds on a two-year contract next season.