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Johnson lost his place in the squad after last Friday's 26-4 defeat to the Kangaroos.
He posted a message on Instagram admitting he didn't play his best in Wollongong.
"I played shit and got dropped. Let the haters say what they want cause I'll never stop working on something I love. Tough days make the good ones sweeter. Lessgooo brothers," he posted.
Kiwis coach Michael Maguire yesterday said Johnson's international career is far from finished – but he needs to build more consistency in his game.
The desire to reward Kieran Foran for an impressive 2019 NRL season, and an off colour performance by Johnson against the Kangaroos, led to Maguire making one of the biggest calls of his tenure.
"We have pretty high standards here at the moment and we are looking for consistency all the time," said Maguire.
"I've had a senior group talk about that since my arrival in the group and I think they all understand that. [The] change at the moment, with Kieran coming in, after our last performance, is well deserved for Kieran. It's a real credit to him to develop his body back to where it needs to be and play at this level."
Johnson had a poor game in Woollongong, though he wasn't Robinson Crusoe on that.
It wasn't easy behind a forward pack that was dominated by the Kangaroos, though Johnson struggled for precision with his kicking and general decision making.
He made several errors, including the intercept pass that led to Australia's first try, and didn't provide the kind of game management required.
But it's not the kind of decision that is taken lightly, as Johnson is a game breaker like few others.
He made his debut in 2012, and by the next season was a fixture in the team.
Since then he has often been the face of the Kiwis, and across 30 tests has been involved in many memorable New Zealand victories, including the 2013 World Cup semi final, the 2014 Four Nations triumph in Wellington and the historic Anzac test victory a year later.
But his Kiwis form has fluctuated recently. He had a mixed tour of England last year, but was excellent in the June test win over Tonga.
This isn't the end of the road, and Johnson is still the prime contender to lead the halves at the 2021 World Cup, but it's a reminder of the levels expected by Maguire.
The coach said Johnson took the news of his demotion "very well".
"I had a really good, long conversation with him and I've been able to build a strong relationship with Shaun about his game and he understands that, that consistency is a big part of playing at this level and at all levels. It's something that he has got to work hard at."
But Maguire had no doubt about Johnson's future international prospects.
"If Shaun goes away and works really hard at his game, he has definitely shown he is an international player," said Maguire. "On his day, as we all know, he is a great player. It's something I spoke to him about and I am looking forward to seeing him go away and develop his game and continually build on what he has been doing."
The selection also allows Maguire to build depth, and the return of Foran is an undoubted feel good story.
He has only played one test in the last four and a half years, and for a long time looked unlikely to return to this level following his personal issues and injury problems.
"He is a great example for everyone and Kieran at his best is one of the world's best players," said Maguire. "I've watched him at training and even though he has a bit of age the smarts between the ears gets a bit smarter at times so he will be able to handle himself."
The other changes see Joseph Tapine return, after missing last week through suspension, and Zane Tetevano picked to start with Leeson Ah Mau dropping to the bench.
Adam Blair will play his 50th test, only the ninth player in league history worldwide to complete the half century.
1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Warriors)
2 Ken Maumalo (Warriors)
3 Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad (Canberra Raiders)
4 Joseph Manu (Sydney Roosters)
5 Jamayne Isaako (Brisbane Broncos)
6 Kieran Foran (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)
7 Benji Marshall (C) (Wests Tigers)
8 Zane Tetevano (Sydney Roosters)
9 Brandon Smith (Melbourne Storm)
10 Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Sydney Roosters)
11 Briton Nikora (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks)
12 Kenny Bromwich (Melbourne Storm)
13 Joseph Tapine (Canberra Raiders)
14 Jahrome Hughes (Melbourne Storm)
15 Corey Harawira-Naera (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)
16 Leeson Ah Mau (Warriors)
17 Adam Blair (Warriors)
18 Kevin Proctor (Gold Coast Titans)
19 Bailey Simonsson (Canberra Raiders)