Kiwis have high hopes for prop Sam Kasiano
Sam Kasiano doesn't talk the talk but Kiwis management are confident he will be capable of walking the walk when he makes a much-anticipated test debut against the Kangaroos in Saturday's one-off trans-Tasman test in Townsville.
Once Kasiano ended speculation about his representative future by pledging allegiance to New Zealand over Queensland, the softly-spoken prop has been among the Kiwis highest profile debutants-in-waiting, the ultimate quiet achiever.
Although he intimidates through size and stature alone the 22-year-old Bulldogs front rower - and NRL prop of the year - would prefer to run a mile under Far North Queensland's midday sun than engage a media scrum at the Kiwis training base in Cairns.
The gentle giant prefers for actions to speak louder than words but his shyness is not an indication of nerves regarding the start of his Kiwis career at Dairy Farmers Stadium.
Kasiano was predictably named yesterday in the 17-man squad to undertake the season-ending international and has even been entrusted with a start by head coach Stephen Kearney.
While fellow newcomer Dean Whare was happy to discuss a career highlight ahead of his starting role in the centres and Kevin Proctor was rapt to earn his maiden cap in the second row, Kasiano was content to stay in the shade after training at Stan Williams Park and let Kearney outline the Aucklander's progress since he joined his first Kiwis camp on Sunday.
"He's settled in nicely. He sticks by his mate Big Frank (Pritchard). You can see the relationship they have, which is really nice to see. He's like Frank's big shadow."
Since the team arrived in Cairns the climate hasn't exactly been conducive for a 1.96-metre, 133kg ball-playing prop to thrive in but he has defied the heat to indicate he is at least prepared physically for a baptism of fire against a typically abrasive Kangaroos pack.
"Just watching him train for the first time, he does move, as funny as it sounds, with a bit of grace. He doesn't lumber along, he's got a nice touch about him with the footy and I believe he's got a good engine," Kearney said.
Kasiano might have been Queensland's equivalent of adopted New South Welshman James Tamou as Mel Meninga was considering him as a long-term replacement for Petero Civoniceva, but his Mum Kalala and the Kiwis brotherhood in Bankstown succeeded in aligning him to the Kiwis.
"We were pretty persistent in trying to give him the information of what we're about," Kearney said.
Now another message has to be absorbed by Kasiano as he prepares to lock horns with Palmerston North-born Tamou deep in Cowboys territory.
"We'll make it nice and clear what we expect from him and if he goes out there and has a real focus on that I'm sure he'll do well and not go 'Oh shit, it's my first test'," Kearney said.
Pritchard and Greg Eastwood will provide moral support in the second row and via the interchange bench so Kasiano will not be lacking guidance.
Whare, who started the 2012 season at Manly with only five first grade games under his belt, also expects to benefit from his liaison with Kieran Foran, who returns to partner Benji Marshall in the halves after missing April's Anzac Test at Eden Park with a hamstring injury.
"I've known Kieran for about three years so that has to help," said Whare, who claims a centre berth due to the unavailability of Jerome Ropati, Shaun Kenny-Dowall and clubmate Steve Matai.
Although the 22-year-old expressed surprise at his selection in the train-on squad and then then 19-strong tour party, Kearney said Whare had been under consideration since 2009.
"We've had him on the radar since when he was playing for Manly's under-20s. He's had a rough run with injuries but he's the type of kid who was always likely to step up with a bit more exposure to first grade."
Proctor's promotion continues a memorable year for the second rower who picked up a premiership ring 10 days ago. He was a non-playing member of the Four Nations squad last year and starts in the pack ahead of former Melbourne Storm teammate Adam Blair.
Krisnan Inu, Sam Perrett and Eastwood resume their test careers after significant lay-offs while Jesse Bromwich's sterling service to the Storm sees him start for the first time in his two-test career.
Sam McKendry had that role when the teams last met at Eden Park and is now 18th man while Warriors playmaker Shaun Johnson - a debutant that night - will be in the stands unless injuries hit.
Kiwis: Josh Hoffman, Sam Perrett, Krisnan Inu, Dean Whare, Gerard Beale, Benji Marshall (captain), Kieran Foran, Jesse Bromwich, Issac Luke, Sam Kasiano, Frank Pritchard, Kevin Proctor, Simon Mannering. Interchange: Elijah Taylor, Ben Matulino, Greg Eastwood, Adam Blair, Sam McKendry (18th man).