Morgan beats away rivals for No. 6 spot
AUSTRALIAN coach Mal Meninga has kept the faith with what he believes are his “tried and true” performers but has not ruled out making changes later in the tournament.
Meninga has named what he believes is his strongest side for the Kangaroos quarter- finals match against Samoa in Darwin on Friday night after playing every player at least once through the pool stages.
Michael Morgan has won the race for the five- eighth spot after being picked ahead of James Maloney ( pictured) and Cameron Munster to partner Cooper Cronk with Meninga picking 16 players who featured in the opening match of the World Cup against England with only the injured Jake Trbojevic missing out.
“I love Jimmy,” Meninga said of Maloney. “He is a tremendous player. He probably didn’t have enough match fitness. Michael is the incumbent. He deserves his opportunity.
“Morgan has been really good. It’s funny how people can come out of the shadows when given the opportunity. He is looking forward to getting back in the No. 6.
“He is vocal on the field. You don’t have to be vocal off the field to play his part. He is used to the systems and used to playing with the big guns.”
Josh McGuire will start at lock and Reagan Campbell-Gillard has been named on the interchange bench while Wade Graham pipped Munster for the interchange utility role.
Meninga said he could still tinker with his bench as the tour nament progress es but was fairly certain of his top 13.
“The bench is the one we mused over a little bit,” Meninga said.
“I went with what was good against England because ( Samoa) have a big side and picked the four forward bench. I’m very happy with the balance of the team.
“A lot of pressure came internally from some of the younger ones. At this stage I’ll go with the tried and true and a team that has good experience to get the job done.
“If we get a really good result on Friday, it would be hard to go beyond the 17. I’m not sure who we will play in the semi- finals. I’m settled on the top 13 but we’ll look at our bench as we progress through the tournament. “
The Kiwis’ shock loss to Tonga last weekend has them on a semi- final collision course with the Kangaroos.
The nations were tipped to square off in a replay of the 2013 World Cup final but provided Australia beat Samoa and the Kiwis beat Fiji they will do battle in next week’s semifinal.
“We’ve got to get through Samoa first,” Meninga said.
“We’ll make sure that’s a priority for us.
“We’ll see what happens but if New Zealand play to their potential it’s more than likely going to be New Zealand in the semi final.
“That’s a great semi- final battle at Suncorp.”
TOP CHOICE: Michael Morgan of Australia makes a line break during the Kangaroos’ World Cup win over France.