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RLWC: How the Kangaroos are shaping up

Jordan McLean during training in Brisbane ahead of the Kangaroos' opening Rugby League World Cup game against England in Melbourne on October 27.
Jordan McLean during training in Brisbane ahead of the Kangaroos' opening Rugby League World Cup game against England in Melbourne on October 27. DAN PELED

WE'RE just 10 days away from the 2017 World Cup and, at the moment, there's still more questions than answers when it comes to team selection.

And Australia certainly isn't exempt from the cloud of confusion surrounding Mal Meninga's line-up.

Trial games against Fiji and Papua New Guinea at the weekend probably only darkened the cloud over Meninga's final 17.

So, to help unravel the selection riddle on Meninga's clipboard, we've run the rule over the entire Kangaroos squad.

Here are the locks, the shocks, and the bolters for Friday week's World Cup opener against England in Melbourne.

LOCKS

Fullback - Billy Slater

Probably the best we've ever seen in his position. Astonishingly back to the international game after two years in the wilderness due to injury. Can't go past him.

Wing - Val Holmes

Had a solid trial hitout in Fiji and is one of the rising stars of Meninga's squad. He'll hold down a wing.

Centre - Will Chambers

One of the experienced Melbourne representatives who would walk into any representative side.

Halfback - Cooper Cronk

The only genuine halfback selected in the squad, so Meninga is confident Cronk can wear the No.7 jersey right throughout the tournament.

Prop - David Klemmer

A beast in the Origin arena and belongs in a Roos jumper. His aggression up front is unique in this squad.

Hooker - Cameron Smith

The best in the game. Arguably the best ever. It's his No.9 jersey as long as he wants it.

Backrow - Boyd Cordner

Captained the side in Fiji and was anointed Cameron Smith's successor. Will be one of the first picked.

Backrow - Matt Gillett

One of the best defenders in the game and one of the best backrowers in Australia. Any coach would love to have him.

 

Michael Morgan (centre) during training in Brisbane
Michael Morgan (centre) during training in Brisbane DAN PELED

SHOCKS

Friz could oust full-time locks

Tyson Frizell is pushing for the No.13 jersey and could well steal it off a couple of guys who know the role a little better than he does.

Frizell plays on the right edge for his NRL club, but has the game to adapt to a position in the middle if asked.

It's Jake Trbojevic and Josh McGuire who he will need to beat in the frantic footrace to the starting role.

With incumbent lock Trent Merrin unavailable, these three men find themselves in an intense battle for one jumper.

Morgan's No.6 grip slips

He was the best player of the NRL finals series and dubbed the game's best halfback during an astonishing run of form late in the season.

James Maloney's own form was so-so, and it led to speculation Morgan had stolen the Australian No.6 jumper.

But a strong performance in the weekend's trials may just have tipped the ledger back in favour of the Cronulla five-eighth.

Maloney is unlikely to be in the side if he doesn't start in the halves, whereas Morgan will snatch a spot on the bench if he loses out to the more experienced player.

Meninga most likely wants both of them in the side, leaving Morgan to play as utility off the bench.

The third five-eighth contender - Cameron Munster - had a shocking trial and may have lost his spot in the team altogether.

 

Billy Slater (left) and Jake Trbojevic during training in Brisbane
Billy Slater (left) and Jake Trbojevic during training in Brisbane DAN PELED

BOLTERS

Turbo-charged headache for Mal

Young gun Tom Trbojevic was a standout for the Kangaroos in their trials in Fiji, switching between centre and fullback.

He won't be ousting Slater from the fullback role, but he remains a smoky to snag a spot in the backline out wide.

He's fighting for a wing spot against Josh Mansour, or a centre spot against frontrunner Josh Dugan and the likes of rookie Dane Gagai.

A national debut isn't too far away for the young man, and he'll be hoping it's sooner rather than later.

Top props under the gun

Aaron Woods and David Klemmer are the obvious choices to bookend Australia's pack.

But a 2017 premiership winner is putting the heat on his more experienced representative forwards to earn the jumper.

Jordan McLean was in hot form to help Storm win the premiership a few weeks ago, and was one of the only grand final players to make an appearance in the trial games at the weekend.

Klemmer is probably safe but Woods could be in for a fight to be named in the starting pack.

Versatile Graham a bench weapon

Wade Graham has admitted his best chance at earning a Kangaroos debut is from the bench, and Meninga knows how valuable the versatile forward could be.

Meninga went as far as to tell The Daily Telegraph his newest forward option could be used at five-eighth or centre if need be.

That endorsement opens the door for Graham to be used as the bench utility, beating the likes of Michael Morgan, Cameron Munster, and Ben Hunt.

 

Josh Mansour during training in Brisbane
Josh Mansour during training in Brisbane DAN PELED

Possible Kangaroos 17

1 Billy Slater

2 Val Holmes

3 Will Chambers

4 Josh Dugan

5 Josh Mansour

6 James Maloney

7 Cooper Cronk

8 David Klemmer

9 Cameron Smith

10 Aaron Woods

11 Boyd Cordner

12 Matt Gillett

13 Jake Trbojevic

14 Michael Morgan

15 Jordan McLean

16 Josh McGuire

17 Tyson Frizell

Topics:  billy slater kangaroos mal meninga rugby league world cup sportopinion valentine holmes

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