Australia will go into Saturday’s Group B clash against Fiji as 1/2 favourites to win the World Cup, despite not having played a warm-up game.
But their coach Mal Meninga is thought likely to select a squad that will exclude the Penrith and Parramatta players who featured in the NRL Grand Final on October 2.
It means that Daly Cherry-Evans could claim the halfback spot for the opening game at Headingley on Saturday evening (kick-off 7.30pm).
Cherry-Evans and Penrith halfback Nathan Cleary will do battle for the coveted halfback spot as the tournament unfolds, as Meninga tries to identify his best side heading into the knockout stages.
Cleary is the favourite to be given the role, but he only joined the Kangaroos in camp last Wednesday, having been given time to celebrate Penrith’s successful Premiership defence.
Cleary’s team-mates Isaah Yeo and Liam Martin are also likely to be rested for the opening game, as is Parramatta prop forward Reagan Campbell-Gillard, although Meninga admits he is still weighing up his options.
“We haven’t had a chat yet,” said Meninga.
“We are letting them settle in. I will have a chat with them about how they are feeling. We haven’t made a decision yet but it is more than likely (that they will be rested).”
Whatever he decides, Meninga is likely to introduce a host of Australian debutants against the Fijians.
Matt Burton, Patrick Carrigan, Lindsay Collins, Reuben Cotter, Angus Crichton, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Campbell Graham, Harry Grant, Jeremiah Nanai and Murray Taulagi are all in line to make their Test debuts early in the tournament.
“It’s a long tour and we have to take that into consideration. Everyone needs to play in those early rounds,” added Meninga.
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