Niko Kirwan is set to complete an amazing record of family sporting achievement after his call-up to the All Whites for their international games against Curaçao and Bahrain in October.
The 26-year-old is one of six uncapped players to be named in the All Whites squad for the friendly internationals to be played in Bahrain.
If he gets on the pitch for his international debut, he’ll complete an amazing clean sweep of achievement for the Kirwan family:
- His father, Sir John Kirwan, played 63 games for the All Blacks between 1984 and 1994, and was a member of New Zealand’s Rugby World Cup winning squad of 1987.
- His sister, Francesca (27), has represented New Zealand at beach volleyball and has won the national doubles title in three of the last five years.
- His brother, Luca, is an international rower who was a member of the New Zealand coxed four that finished fourth at the world U-23 rowing championships in 2019.
Niko Kirwan began his football career at Auckland’s Sacred Heart College under the tutelage of coach Danny Hay, who will now be his coach when the All Whites take the pitch in Bahrain.
Kirwan has gone close to making his international debut before, having been called into the national squad in 2018 for a friendly against Canada, though he did not get onto the pitch.
He has been playing professionally in Italy for the past four years, having grown up in the country while his father was the coach of the Italian national rugby team.
In 2017, after senior experience with Team Wellington and Miramar Rangers, Kirwan signed his first professional contract with Italian third-tier club AC Mestre.
A year later, he moved to Reggina who play in the Italian Serie C and in 2019, he signed a two-year contract with Serie C rivals Reggiana. He helped both clubs win promotion to Serie B.
This year, he moved to Serie C club Padova who missed promotion to the second tier last year on goal difference, aiming to land a hat-trick of promotions.
He’s been playing at right back for Padova but can also play at left back or in midfield.
The New Zealand squad for the October internationals consists entirely of players based in Europe or the United States. Players based in New Zealand and Australia were not considered due to the managed isolation and quarantine requirements they would face.
As well as Kirwan, five more players are in line for the international debuts – midfielders Matt Garbett (Torino, Italy) and Marko Stamenic (HB Køge, Denmark), forward Joey Champness (Giresunspor, Turkey) and fullbacks Kelvin Kalua (currently on trial in Europe) and Dalton Wilkins (Kolding IF, Denmark).
Captain Winston Reid will travel but will not play, as he has only recently returned to training after suffering a knee injury at the Tokyo Olympics. He is also now a free agent, having left English Premier League club West Ham United by mutual consent.
The All Whites
The full 21-man squad is:
Stefan Marinovic (25 Caps) Hapoel Nof HaGalil, Israel
Nikola Tzanev (1 Cap) AFC Wimbledon, England
Michael Woud (2 Caps) Almere City FC, Netherlands
Michael Boxall (33 Caps) Minnesota United, USA
Nikko Boxall (3 Caps) SJK Seinäjoki, Finland
Liberato Cacace (3 Caps) Sint-Truidense VV, Belgium
Kelvin Kalua* (0 Caps) Eastern Suburbs, New Zealand (currently on trial in Europe)
Niko Kirwan (0 Caps) Padova, Italy
Nando Pijnaker (1 Cap) FC Helsingør (loan from Rio Ave FC), Denmark
Tommy Smith (38 Caps) Colchester United, England
Bill Tuiloma (26 Caps) Portland Timbers, USA
Dalton Wilkins* (0 Caps) Kolding IF (loan from FC Helsingør), Denmark
Joe Bell (2 Caps) Viking FK, Norway
Joseph Champness* (0 Caps) Giresunspor, Turkey
Matthew Garbett* (0 Caps) Torino, Italy
Sarpreet Singh (6 Caps) SSV Jahn Regensburg (loan from FC Bayern Münich), Germany
Marko Stamenic* (0 Caps) HB Køge (on loan from FC Copenhagen), Denmark
Andre de Jong (4 Caps) AmaZulu FC, South Africa
Elijah Just (2 Caps) FC Helsingør, Denmark
Callum McCowatt (1 Cap) FC Helsingør, Denmark
Chris Wood (57 Caps) Burnley FC, England
*Debut senior national team call-up
Ryan Thomas was unavailable for selection for personal reasons, while OlyWhite Gianni Stensness was unavailable for selection having chosen to represent Australia at senior level.
“I’m not going to say it isn’t disappointing to see Gianni make that choice,” says Hay.
The All Whites face Curaçao on Saturday 9 October (Sunday 10 October NZT) and Bahrain on Tuesday 12 October (Wednesday 13 October NZT) in Manama, Bahrain.
Both games will be played at 7pm local time (5am in New Zealand).
Danny Hay interviews
Hay on the announcement of his squad:
Hay on the prospect of playing two internationals: