As Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens continues to tinker with his squad heading into the business end of the World Cup, forward Paul Gallen says he is hoping to lock down the number 13 jersey.
Gallen has started at lock, off the bench and at prop in Australia's three games so far and says while he would play anywhere, it would be his preference to play at 13 running off the squad's larger props.
"It's nicer to run behind two guys that are bigger than you – Jimmy Tamou, Matty Scott or Fifita, rather than having to be the battering ram," Gallen told NRL.com.
"Obviously I am a lot smaller than them sort of blokes. I've done the job for a lot of years now in the front row whether it be for New South Wales or Australia so I'm not really too fussed, but if I had an option it'd be my preference to be at 13 and run behind the bigger blokes."
Gallen has been named in Sheens' extended squad of 20 ahead of Saturday night's quarter final against the USA Tomahawks, with a final line-up not expected until shortly before kick-off, and Gallen himself no guarantee to play at this stage. He says even the players are still in the dark as to what Sheens is thinking in terms of a best 17 both for this game and the tournament ahead.
"Sheensy's just named a squad this week, he's named a squad of 20 players, we'll see where he goes from there but he's pretty good at keeping things under wraps, even from us."
Gallen says his reduced minutes in the past two games – around 35 minutes against Fiji and about 45 minutes against Ireland – was part of managing his workload.
"That was sort of the plan, I wasn't going to play all three games, so I think that's why [Sheens] took my minutes right down. At this stage of the tournament I'm just happy to be doing that and playing the simple game in the middle of the field and hopefully stay fresh and keep the body fresh for the last couple of games."
After blowing the cobwebs out in a tough opening win against England – Gallen concedes the team didn't start well and took a while to get going – the Kangaroos spent the next two games focusing on defence.
"On the weekend (in the 50-nil win over Ireland) we were probably expected to win by that sort of margin, now we go into the games that are do or die," he says.
"We're probably expected to win this week too; we'll focus mainly on defence I think, against Fiji and against Ireland we didn't let in any tries, that was our big focus for the week and I'd say it'll be our focus again next week, just concentrating on our defence.
"When we run into, the week after I think it'll be Fiji or Samoa, they're teams that can attack so defence is a big key for us at the moment."
Looking ahead to the clash with the tomahawks, Gallen says the Australian squad is focused on itself rather than the opposition – one of the real surprise packets of the tournament to date – but echoed comments from Sam Thaiday that the USA's performance is good for the game globally.
"I think it's good for the game in general, a country as big as America and as big a population as theirs, for the game to take off over there, I think it's good for rugby league," he says.
"The Americans, you see how much they love the NFL, rugby league has a similar sort of [physical] impact but with more fitness involved so they might actually enjoy it. That's a long way off but all in all I think it's good for the game, they should be proud of where they've got to."