BORN-again prop Russell Packer has bolted into the Kiwis starting line-up to face Australia in the Anzac Test in Canberra on Friday night.
A surprise inclusion in the squad ahead of Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Packer has beaten out experienced Kiwis hardmen Adam Blair and Martin Taupau for a starting berth.
The latter pair are both on the interchange bench.
It is another major achievement for Packer, 27, who had wondered if his career was over after spending a year behind bars for assault in 2014.
The St George Illawarra front-rower spoke this week of his desire to repay the faith shown by David Kidwell, having been recalled for his third Test and first since 2011.
Packer admitted to being first shocked, and then emotional, when he received the call last week from Kidwell to inform him of his selection.
He labelled his selection as a reward for the family and friends that have stuck by him.
An otherwise predictable team features the all-Warriors spine of Issac Luke, Shaun Johnson, Kieran Foran and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
Foran makes his long-awaited return to the Test stage following two years besieged by much-publicised off-field problems.
Influential fullback Tuivasa-Sheck, like veteran Kiwis second rower Simon Mannering, plays his first Test in more than a year.
Both missed the entire 2016 international season due to injury. Elijah Taylor has been named 18th man.
NEW ZEALAND: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Jordan Kahu, Dean Whare, Jordan Rapana, Kieran Foran, Shaun Johnson, Jesse Bromwich (capt), Issac Luke, Russell Packer, Kevin Proctor, Simon Mannering, Jason Taumalolo. Interchange: Adam Blair, Martin Taupau, Kenny Bromwich, Kodi Nikorima. 18th man: Elijah Taylor
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