Warrington forward Joe Philbin is ready to “run at a hundred miles an hour” after being called up to make his Great Britain debut in Saturday’s first Test against New Zealand in Auckland.
The 24-year-old front or back rower is set to profit from the loss of St Helens prop Luke Thompson, who damaged a rib in Saturday’s opening 14-6 defeat by a Tongan Invitational XIII in Hamilton.
Tom Burgess will start in Thompson’s absence with Philbin going onto the bench while, as expected, Hull utility back Jake Connor is a straight swap for centre Oliver Gildart, who is out of the tour with a dislocated shoulder.
In other changes, coach Wayne Bennett has dropped full-back Lachlan Coote for his St Helens team-mate Jonny Lomax and there is a probable spot on the bench for Warrington hooker Daryl Clark, who is named in a 21-man squad which will be cut to 19 on Friday.
Philbin played in all three games for Ireland in the 2017 World Cup and was promoted into the Lions squad from the England Knights team that toured Papua New Guinea 12 months ago.
“I’m buzzing to be in the squad,” Philbin said. “But I’ve not just come out here to make up the numbers, I do want to be playing in Test matches.
“It’s never nice being up in the stands watching, you want to be out there doing your thing and, if I get the opportunity, I’ll grab it with both hands and run onto that ball at a hundred miles an hour.”
Burgess is confident the team can cope with the loss of an in-form Thompson, who has not yet been ruled out of the remaining matches.
“He’s obviously had a great year this year,” he said. “I loved playing with him last year, he was a big part of our squad when we beat the Kiwis.
“He brings that leg speed through the middle and he brings that energy. If he doesn’t play, we’ll miss him but whoever comes in will be raring to go.”
Connor believes he will be able to slot effortlessly into the threequarters, having played at centre in all three matches of last year’s Test series against the Kiwis.
Connor said: “I’ve played a bit of centre this year so it’s not new to me.
”I’ll give it everything I’ve got, like I normally do. It will be special.”
New Zealand have recalled half-back Kieran Foran after a two-year absence in place of Shaun Johnson for the match at Eden Park, where forward Adam Blair will win his 50th cap.
In other changes to the side which lost 26-4 to Australia in Wollongong last Friday, coach Michael Maguire brings prop Zane Tetevano into the starting line-up after he made his debut from the bench and recalls back rower Joseph Tapine from suspension.
New Zealand: R Tuivasa-Sheck (NZ Warriors); K Maumalo (NZ Warriors), C Nicoll-Klokstad (Canberra), J Manu (Sydney Roosters), J Isaako (Brisbane); K Foran (Canterbury Bulldogs), B Marshall (Wests Tigers, capt); Z Tetevano (Sydney Roosters), B Smith (Melbourne), J Waerea-Hargreaves (Sydney Roosters), B Nikora (Cronulla), K Bromwich (Melbourne), J Tapine (Canberra).
Replacements: J Hughes (Melbourne), C Harawira-Naera (Canterbury Bulldogs), L Ah Mau (NZ Warriors), A Blair (NZ Warriors).
Great Britain: J Lomax (St Helens); J McGillvary (Huddersfield), Z Hardaker (Wigan), J Connor (Hull), R Hall (Sydney Roosters); G Widdop (St George Illawarra), J Hastings (Salford); C Hill (Warrington), J Hodgson (Canberra), T Burgess (Sydney Roosters), J Bateman (Canberra), E Whitehead (Canberra), J Graham (St George Illawarrra (capt).
Replacements (from): J Jones (Salford), J Philbin (Warrington), D Clark (Warrington), A Walmsley (St Helens), J Hughes (Warrington), G Williams (Wigan), J Trueman (Castleford), B Austin (Warrington).