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NRL: A look at the Australian World Cup squad

Australia are to defend their World Cup title in England later this month and coach Mal Meninga has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal.

Meninga could possibly have named two squads capable of winning the World Cup, such is the quality and strength in depth in the Kangaroos ranks.

However he has whittled the list down and now has a very strong looking squad that will be the envy of the rest of the competition.

If all goes to plan it should be more than good enough to get the job done, but the likes of England, New Zealand and maybe even Tonga could have something to say about that.

So let’s take a closer look at the squad that Meninga has named and who is likely to start in the opening World Cup fixture against Fiji next week.

The Australian squad

Josh Addo-Carr (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs) Matt Burton (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs) Reagan Campbell-Gillard (Parramatta Eels) Patrick Carrigan (Brisbane Broncos) Daly Cherry-Evans (Manly Warringah Sea Eagles) Nathan Cleary (Penrith Panthers) Lindsay Collins (Sydney Roosters) Reuben Cotter (North Queensland Cowboys) Angus Crichton (Sydney Roosters) Tino Fa'asuamaleaui (Gold Coast Titans) Campbell Graham (South Sydney Rabbitohs) Harry Grant (Melbourne Storm) Valentine Holmes (North Queensland Cowboys) Ben Hunt (St George Illawarra Dragons) Liam Martin (Penrith Panthers) Latrell Mitchell (South Sydney Rabbitohs) Cameron Munster (Melbourne Storm) Cameron Murray (South Sydney Rabbitohs) – Vice-Captain Jeremiah Nanai (North Queensland Cowboys) Murray Taulagi (North Queensland Cowboys) James Tedesco (Sydney Roosters) – Captain Jake Trbojevic (Manly Warringah Sea Eagles) Jack Wighton (Canberra Raiders) Isaah Yeo (Penrith Panthers).

The amount of talent in that squad is something else. When you have to make a decision over who starts at halfback Nathan Cleary or Daly Cherry-Evans, then you know you are in business.

Cherry-Evans is the current incumbent and Meninga has hinted he will start against Fiji. But Cleary starting on the bench is also hard to fathom. He would be first name on the team sheet in any other side.

But those are the kind of dilemmas that Meninga has as the opening game against Fiji fast approaches. He must also have had a real headache whittling his squad down as some huge names have not made the cut.

Penrith fullback Dylan Edwards and Cronulla Sharks playmaker Nicho Hynes are the two biggest surprises.

Edwards has been a revelation all season and won the man-of-the-match in last week’s grand final win over Parramatta. Hynes has also helped to transform the Cronulla Sharks this season but again there is no room for the playmaker.

They have both been named on the standby list along with another superstar in the form of South Sydney and NSW State of Origin ace Damien Cook.

It would appear that Edwards has missed out because Meninga will have plenty of cover at fullback should anything happen to captain James Tedesco.

Latrell Mitchell, who will play at centre, has been outstanding for South Sydney in the No.1 Jersey this season, while Cameron Munster has also played fullback for Melbourne Storm this season.

Despite all the undoubted quality in the Kangaroos squad it is the most inexperienced they have ever sent to a World Cup.

It includes 13 debutants, including Penrith star Isaah Yeo who has been named as one of the vice-captains, along with Cameron Murray.

Again Yeo has been outstanding for the Panthers and it is unlikely his lack of experience at a World Cup will be an issue. Same goes for Cleary.

Tedesco has been named captain and Meninga says it was a no-brainer to go with the Sydney Roosters and NSW Origin skipper for the World Cup.

“It was pretty straight forward,” Meninga said. “He is the premier player, he got the player’s player last night as well. I thought he was an outstanding candidate. He also captains his club and captains his state.”

North Queensland Cowboys trio Jeremiah Nanai, Reuben Cotter and Murray Taulagi are also among the debutants along with Liam Martin, who played his role in the Panthers premiership success.

Roosters forwards Angus Crichton and Lindsay Collins, Titans prop Tino Fa'asuamaleaui, Rabbitohs centre Campbell Graham, Bulldogs five-eighth Matt Burton and Broncos lock Pat Carrigan will also debut.

The Kangaroos of course won the World Cup when it was last played in 2017 and just five players from that squad will make the trip to the UK.

They are Tedesco, Josh Addo-Carr, Mitchell, Jack Wighton, Munster, Cherry-Evans, Jake Trbojevic and Murray.

Meninga is not entirely sure what his best side will look like, but does not think it will take long to work it out.

"In short, everyone's got an opportunity to put the green and gold jersey on,” he said. “Everyone will play in the green and gold jersey in early rounds and then we'll make a decision based on performance."

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