Mor­gan beats away ri­vals for No. 6 spot

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT - MICHAEL CARAYANNIS

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.

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