Kangaroos bolters get chance to impress
The Prime Minister's XIII v Papua New Guinea match is shaping as a genuine selection trial ahead of the upcoming Four Nations tournament with a large number of incumbents and other hopefuls unavailable through injury.
In particular the prop and wing positions are wide open with Aaron Woods, Brenton Lawrence, Josh McGuire and Dylan Napa all in with a genuine chance of earning a Test debut up front and Daniel Tupou, Josh Mansour and Will Chambers in line for a place on the green and gold flanks.
Roos halfback Johnathan Thurston is also out due to shoulder surgery, meaning utility Daly Cherry-Evans is likely to move into the starting side, opening the way for any of Robbie Farah, Anthony Milford, Ben Hunt – or even Michael Morgan or Matt Mylan – to claim the bench utility role.
PM's XIII coach Laurie Daley has had to fly home due to a family illness meaning national coach Tim Sheens – who was in PNG to watch the game as a selector – is now managing the team directly. With Sheens taking a more hands-on role it means the hopefuls in the squad have a golden opportunity to stake a claim in front of the Kangaroos coach.
Raiders and PM's XIII forward Josh Papalii now looks almost a certain starter for the Four Nations but could be used to plug a gap in the front row rotation with the Australian back row stocks far less depleted.
Grand Final players weren't considered for the PM's XIII but the likes of Rabbitohs centre Dylan Walker and winger Alex Johnston and Bulldogs forwards Josh Jackson, David Klemmer and Aiden Tolman may also come into contention.
Among the incumbents unavailable from the Aussies' most recent match, the Trans Tasman Test in May, are fullback Billy Slater (shoulder), wingers Brett Morris (shoulder) and Darius Boyd (personal), halfback Johnathan Thurston (shoulder), props Matt Scott (shoulder), Nate Myles (bicep) and James Tamou (neck) and lock Paul Gallen (ASADA ban), and probably also centre Josh Morris (knee).
Other unavailable players with representative experience, or who are likely future representative players, include Andrew Fifita, Trent Merrin, Justin Hodges, Josh Dugan, Will Hopoate, and rugby-bound Maroons forward Ben Te'o.
Bulldogs and NSW halves Josh Reynolds (shoulder) and Trent Hodkinson (knee) and hooker Michael Ennis (foot) are also unlikely to be available.
The Prime Minister’s XIII team:
Matt Moylan (Penrith Panthers)
Josh Mansour (Penrith Panthers)
Will Chambers (Melbourne Storm)
Sione Mata'utia (Newcastle Knights)
Daniel Tupou (Sydney Roosters)
Anthony Milford (Canberra Raiders)
Ben Hunt (Brisbane Broncos)
Aaron Woods (Wests Tigers)
Robbie Farah (Wests Tigers)
Josh Papalii (Canberra Raiders)
Ryan Hoffman (Melbourne Storm)
Beau Scott (Newcastle Knights)
Greg Bird (c) (Gold Coast Titans)
Michael Morgan (North Queensland Cowboys)
Brenton Lawrence (Manly Sea Eagles)
Josh McGuire (Brisbane Broncos)
Dylan Napa (Sydney Roosters)
Jarrod Croker (Canberra Raiders)
1. Israel Eliab
2. Gary Lo
3. Thompson Teteh
4. Jason Tali
5. Adex Wera
6. Dion Aiye
7. Roger Laka
8. Mark Mexico
9. Wartovo Puara
10. Esau Siune
11. Sebastian Pandia
12. Rhyse Martin
13. Adam Korave
14. Noel Zeming
15. Willie Minoga
16. Timothy Lomai
17. Lawrence Tu'u
18. Brandy Peter
19. Stanton Albert
20. Kato Otio
21. Henry Wan
All 21 players will be used during the match against the 18-man Australian team with unlimited interchange throughout the match.