Morgan given nod ahead of Samoa clash
RUGBY LEAGUE: Michael Morgan has won the race for the five-eighth spot after being named in a full-strength Kangaroos side to play Samoa on Friday night.
Australian coach Mal Meninga has picked what he believes is his strongest side for the Kangaroos’ World Cup quarter-finals match.
It features the 16 players who featured in the opening match against England, with only the injured Jake Trbojevic missing out.
Josh McGuire will start at lock and Reagan Campbell-Gillard has been named on the interchange bench.
Morgan has beaten James Maloney and Cameron Munster to partner Cooper Cronk in the halves for the match in Darwin.
Wade Graham remains the bench utility despite a challenge from Munster.
“This is a quarter-final and we have named what we believe is our strongest possible team for the occasion,” Meninga said.
“We understand that Samoa will be desperate to play well, so we are making sure we do everything possible with our preparation to be successful.”
For Samoa, Ben Roberts has been recalled and will start at halfback ahead of Fa’amanu Brown who has been named on the bench.
Frank Pritchard will start in the back row after being rested against Scotland. Leeson Ah Mau has been promoted into the starting side at lock with Bunty Afoa dropping to the bench.
New Zealand’s coach David Kidwell has reacted to last week’s shock loss to Tonga by demoting Brisbane star Kodi Nikorima to the bench for this week’s match against Fiji.
Nikorima was targeted by the gargantuan Tongans and he has been replaced by North Queensland five-eighth Te Maire Martin.
Thomas Leuluai has been dropped from the side with Newcastle rake Danny Levi replacing him at dummy half. There are no other changes for the Kiwis, who will face either Australia or Samoa should they down the Bati.
Wayne Bennett has made a heap of changes to the England side that disposed of France during the last pool match on the weekend.
Gareth Widdop has been named to start from the back. Sam Burgess will make his return from a knee injury, with Ben Currie making way for him. Elliot Whitehead also joins the back row.
Josh Hodgson takes his place at hooker with his week three replacement, James Roby, dropping to the bench.
Ryan Hall and Kallum Watkins have been recalled to the backline.
After starring in his debut Lachlan Lam misses out on a spot in Papua New Guinea’s 17.
He’s replaced by regular five-eighth Ase Boas.
Nixon Putt is replaced by Stanton Albert on the bench.
Enock Maki makes way for Rod Griffin.
MAL’S PICK: Michael Morgan is Australia’s five-eighth for the sudden-death clash with Samoa on Friday.