Maroon’s Origin campaign debut impresses World Cup coach Meninga
Napa in Test reckoning
AUSTRALIA coach Mal Meninga says Maroons enforcer Dylan Napa is in the frame for a Test debut and could steal NSW rival Andrew Fifita’s Kangaroos jumper for the World Cup.
Napa will continue his march to a maiden green- andgold jumper when Queensland’s Roosters firebrand squares off against Cowboys hulk Jason Taumalolo in a midfield battle on Saturday night in Sydney.
Meninga has put Kangaroos front- row incumbent Fifita on notice after overlooking the Blues hardman in his in- augural Australian merit squad named last Sunday week.
That has opened the door for Napa, who joined David Klemmer in the merit squad’s starting front row after an outstanding debut Origin campaign.
Taumalolo is a key weapon in New Zealand’s World Cup plans and if Napa can dominate him in a battle of the giants at Allianz Stadium, it will further convince Meninga.
“I saw Dylan perform well for Queensland and that tells me he can perform for Australia,” Meninga said.
“I picked Dylan Napa in the merit squad because his performance through the Origin series got better as it went on.
“He should see this ( being picked in the Kangaroos merit squad) as a genuine sign he is being considered for Australia, absolutely.
“Dylan and the rest of the squad are in the forethoughts of the ( Australia) selectors and when we sit around the table, that merit team will be considered.”
Broncos coach Wayne Bennett helped create the Queensland Emerging Origin program that two years ago identified Napa as a future Maroon.
The 24- year- old vindicated the QAS- backed grooming process this year with a fine three- game Origin campaign, amassing 307 metres and 75 tackles in Queensland’s engine room.
Bennett praised Napa’s maiden Origin campaign and believes the 109kg Roosters hitman would relish being a member of Australia’s 24- man World Cup squad.
“He has always been on Queensland’s radar,” Bennett said. “He was enormous in this Origin series, I wasn’t surprised how he played.
“He would be great for Australia. He is a typical frontrower, fearless and tough – he is exactly what you want as a coach.”
Fifita can clinch a World Cup squad berth with a bumper finals series but Meninga admits Napa represents the poster boy for the fresh blood he must bring to an ageing Australian team.
“In the past, I’ve always been keen on loyalty but we are going through some generational change, not only in Origin but with the national side,” Meninga said.
“Andrew was well contained in the final two Origin games. The Queensland forwards led by Josh McGuire, Matt Gillett, Napa and Cam Smith aimed up and that’s why I chose them in the merit squad, because they did well to shut down Fifita.”
Kangaroos hopeful Dylan Napa.