Meninga puts a line through Roos rookies
Possible Test match bolters like James Tedesco, Corey Oates and Gavin Cooper will have to continue to bide their time for a green and gold jersey according to the national coach, with Mal Meninga on Thursday firmly putting a line through selecting any debutants despite a wave of injuries and retirements affecting the outside backs in particular.
Test centres Will Chambers (foot) and Justin Hodges (retirement), fullback Billy Slater (shoulder) and winger Brett Morris (knee) have left a gulf that needs filling. Regular NRL fullbacks Darius Boyd and Greg Inglis appear to be in a two-horse race for Slater's jersey but either will leave a gap in the three-quarter line that requires filling.
Aaron Woods (ankle) and Boyd Cordner (pec) are the key injuries in the forwards.
Meninga reaffirmed the team named on Sunday week will be made up of the best players for the job at this point in time – but qualified that with the statement that representative rookies won't be considered.
"No. Not this time around, no," Meninga flatly replied in regards to rookies being selected for the Trans-Tasman Test.
"There might be a few changes [from the previous Test] but it won't be unfamiliar changes. It's about continuity and familiarity with the players.
"There are a few players who didn't play last year because of injury or suspension. We've looked at all those things. It will be more a team around cohesion, combinations, short preparation."
Michael Jennings, Josh Morris, Dane Gagai, Josh Dugan and Josh Mansour have all played for Australia or Queensland in the past 12 months and could come into contention, meaning a back five of something like Inglis, Boyd, Jennings, Gagai/Morris and Dugan/Gagai the most likely combination.
It also appeared to suggest underrated Cowboys edge man Gavin Cooper is unlikely to force his way into a stacked back row that could feature the likes of Sam Thaiday, Matt Gillett, Corey Parker, Paul Gallen, Greg Bird, Josh Papalii and Trent Merrin.
Meninga said the team is basically finalised, with some contingency plans in place if further injuries or suspensions strike over the next two weekends of NRL matches.
"You can't [leave it to the last minute but] you don't really want to interfere with the players' club performances either," Meninga said.
"We've got a fair idea who we want to play in that Test team but we can't really nut it down until we play their final game and see their injuries and how they're feeling too.
"We really can't finalise a team until the players have finished playing really but we've got a fair idea of what the team make-up might be but we've got all these little contingency plans if people get hurt or suspended."
Meninga said possible planning for future tournaments such as the 2016 Four Nations and 2017 World Cup won't be a factor in the process.
"Representative football is about there here and now, it's about the best players, putting them into the team and if you're playing really well you should be part of selection regardless of what happens in the future. Rep footy's about the here and now," he said.