Analysis: How will the Kangaroos line up?
With Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens and ARLC chairman John Grant including an incredible 10 debutants in the Kangaroos squad to take on New Zealand, England and Samoa in this year's Four Nations, we've analysed the candidates for every position on the field.
Fullback: Jarryd Hayne, Greg Inglis.
The fullback position is a two-horse race between Parramatta's Hayne and South Sydney's Inglis; Newcastle's Sione Mata'utia is a fullback but his best chance of a debut would be on the wing, where he has played for the Knights in his seven NRL games to date. With incumbent Billy Slater ruled out, Dally M Medal-winning Hayne will fight it out with premiership-winning Inglis for the No.1 jersey with the other certain to take a centre spot. Inglis has the inside running after Hayne's standout performances at centre for Australia in the World Cup. Penrith's Matt Moylan was unlucky not to earn a spot in the tour, according to Sheens, with the veteran mentor opting for versatility.
Sheens says: "I haven't spoken to GI yet. I've had a chat with Jarryd. So until I really sit down and really talk to them this Friday... just to make sure we get a bit more time together, so I'll be better prepared to talk about that then."
"I was very impressed with [Moylan]. It was great to work with him [over in Papua New Guinea]. I was very happy with the way he played."
Centre/wing: Jarryd Hayne, Greg Inglis, Michael Jennings, Alex Johnston, Josh Mansour, Sione Mata'utia, Daniel Tupou, Dylan Walker.
Left-side specialists seem far more dominant these days than right-side specialists, meaning regular Kangaroos right-side flanker – injured Dragons winger Brett Morris – has left a massive hole to fill. It may come down to who he picks at fullback though NSW Origin winger Tupou seems most likely to take Darius Boyd's left wing position.
If Inglis gets picked at fullback Hayne will shift to right centre which means Roosters and Blues pair Jennings and Tupou should make up the left hand side and Penrith's left-edge winger Mansour will likely take control of the right flank – although he seems to spend as much time in the middle of the field as anyone.
If Hayne gets picked at fullback Inglis will more likely shift to left centre next to Tupou, meaning Dylan Walker, as a specialist right centre, will have a chance to slot in – potentially alongside teammate and Rabbitohs left-side winger Alex Johnston.
Sheens was complimentary of Johnston and Mata'utia but each is most likely to get a guernsey against Samoa, if at all. A three-quarter line of Tupou, Jennings, Hayne and Mansour looks the safest bet for the tournament opener.
Sheens says: "[Johnston's] performances earned him a right to be considered and at the end of the day when we finalised the squad we found we needed an extra back and we felt he has played really well. He has a good combination with Dylan which may be handy for us. I don't think anyone could say he didn't deserve this opportunity."
"[Mata'utia] won't line up in the first test... but he's a kid of the future. The senior guys... agree with that as well."
Halves: Daly Cherry-Evans, Cooper Cronk, Ben Hunt
Johnathan Thurston's shoulder injury opens the door for Manly's Cherry-Evans to slot in at five-eighth alongside Cronk at halfback. Cherry-Evans was the incumbent Kangaroos bench utility, opening the door for Broncos half Hunt to be named in the squad with an eye on the bench utility role. Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce and Rabbitohs halfback Adam Reynolds can each consider themselves unlucky after brilliant finishes to 2014, with Sheens identifying Hunt's utility value as a key factor in his inclusion.
Sheens says: "I don't think Johnathan would be happy to hear that he's out of the picture. They're not dead and buried yet. It's coming, there's no doubt. We talked about this 18 months ago. For various reasons, [an influx of debutants has] happened... and there's an opportunity for some guys."
"[Hunt] falls into [the versatile] category as Daly did. He started as a seven and has played a bit of six, a bit of 13 and a bit of nine as the years have gone on. He only just edged out young Pearce on that basis."
Front row: David Klemmer, Josh Papalii, Corey Parker, Sam Thaiday, Aaron Woods
Prop is where the Kangaroos took the biggest hit to their depth with Matt Scott, James Tamou, Nate Myles, Paul Gallen and Andrew Fifita all unavailable. Only two specialist props were named by Sheens and one of those – Bulldogs interchange prop Klemmer – has only played off the bench for the Bulldogs. Instead, middle forwards Parker, Thaiday and Papalii will rotate up front alongside Woods. Parker and Woods are likely to start with Thaiday used in the back row and also to complement his teammates up front, with Papalii possibly coming off the bench.
Hooker: Robbie Farah, Cameron Smith
Both Origin hookers could be utilised in Sheens' best 17. With Thurston ruled out, Farah could slot onto the bench in the utility role previously filled by Cherry-Evans. Smith, being the Australian captain, is a shoo-in for the nine jersey but having Farah in the squad gives Sheens the option of handing the hard-working skipper a break from time to time.
Back row: Greg Bird, Boyd Cordner, Aidan Guerra, Ryan Hoffman, Josh Jackson, Corey Parker, Beau Scott, Sam Thaiday
After captaining the Prime Ministers XIII in PNG this past Sunday, Titans skipper Greg Bird is a lock for lock. The second row is a whole different ball game. Sam Thaiday is almost a certainty to be in the starting team but his whereabouts hinges on the make-up of the front row. Incumbent Kangaroos back-rower Cordner may have the inside running on the other spot but will be pressured by the likes of Aidan Guerra and Origin-winning back rowers Beau Scott and Ryan Hoffman. Jackson might be utilised at some stage but won't come into calculations to take on the Kiwis on October 25th.
Sheens says: "Guerra and company aren't going to be put off by playing for Australia given that they've played in [Origin] this year. So there's an element of experience. Grand finals also make up experience, as do semi finals, so there's some rep footy played this year. It's not as if they're playing against supermen or someone they don't know."
Most likely Australian team to take on New Zealand on October 25th:
1. Greg Inglis
2. Josh Mansour
3. Jarryd Hayne
4. Michael Jennings
5. Daniel Tupou
6. Daly Cherry-Evans
7. Cooper Cronk
8. Aaron Woods
9. Cameron Smith
10. Corey Parker
11. Sam Thaiday
12. Boyd Cordner
13. Greg Bird
14. Robbie Farah
15. Aidan Guerra
16. Beau Scott
17. Josh Papalii