Thaiday pitches in to plug props gap
With a massive five first-string props already unavailable, the Kangaroos' chances started to look even shakier when makeshift middleman Sam Thaiday took ill this week.
Already missing more stars than a 24-hour reality TV channel, the front row stocks took a further hit when Sam Thaiday took a sickie on Tuesday due to a stomach virus.
"Sick day for me [on Tuesday]. Was just 24-hour bug," he said.
But the Broncos forward returned to train with the rest of the squad on Wednesday and declared himself ready to help Australia's front row crisis.
Incumbents Matt Scott (shoulder) and James Tamou (neck) were ruled out before the tournament, as were Test regulars Nate Myles (biceps) and Paul Gallen (suspended).
Canberra's David Shillington, St George-Illawarra's Trent Merrin and Cronulla's Andrew Fifita were also unavailable, forcing Thaiday to play his game closer to the ruck.
"Back in the front row – I'll ring all the boys who have had injuries and had to pull out because I would much prefer to play in the second row," he joked.
"It's a job I have to do now for the Australian team. There's probably a lot of other front rowers out there who would be more than happy to play in this position. There's no real reason for me to whinge and carry on. I'm lucky to be in the team.
"The emblem on the heart is all that matters. The number and name on the back don't really mean anything."
Thaiday, who will play his 25th Test for the Kangaroos on Saturday night, said Sheens had approached him about playing in the middle as soon as the team gathered in Brisbane last Friday.
"Probably the first thing he said to me as soon as he came into camp. He shook my hand and said hello and said he had to use me in that position. I’ve pretty much known from day one," he said.
"It was kind of good that it wasn’t a surprise and he didn’t spring it on me. I’ve had a chance to get my head around it. I’ll just play the same role as I do for the Broncos. I tend to see myself as more of a ball playing front-rower than a standing straight up and down front-rower."
With over half the team missing from the one that defeated New Zealand in last year's World Cup, Thaiday said the team would be reliant on its defence to ensure a winning start to the tournament.
The Kangaroos will be fielding five debutants on Saturday night.
"That’s why we’ve been working as hard as we can on our defence," Thaiday said. "We are going to lose a little bit in attack with so many fantastic players like Billy Slater and JT out – guys who have pulled the rabbit out of the hat for us in the past. Defence will win us games in this tournament. This is why Sheensy has been so tough on us."