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Kalyn Ponga in action for the Junior Kangaroos.

Kalyn Ponga was sublime at five-eighth in the Junior Kangaroos' drubbing of France but insists he isn't targeting a full-time return to the No.6.

Playing in the front-line to accommodate Ryan Papenhuyzen at fullback, Ponga contributed three try assists and two line-break assists and burst into the clear himself during a 62-4 belting in Wollongong.

The 21-year-old started the NRL season in the halves for Newcastle but reverted to the familiar custodian's role after three rounds and had a bigger impact.

With Adam O'Brien to take over as Newcastle's coach, Ponga made it clear he'll do what he's asked in 2020.

"I'll say it time and time again – I'll play wherever the coach wants me or my teammate wants me. I'm not too fussy," Ponga told in the sheds after the match.

The Queensland Origin star credited his sparkling Australian under-23s performance to the quality of his teammates and the home side enjoying 58 per cent of possession.

Match Highlights: Junior Kangaroos v France

"My job was pretty easy mate. I had big Dave [Fifita] outside me, I had a lot of skill both inside and outside. I just had to do my role," Ponga said.

"It was awesome to play with some of these boys. I watched some of them, I've always wanted to play with some of them.

"It felt like we were always attacking. If we were always attacking, that means they're always tired."

Many of the Junior Kangaroos gave their jerseys to the Frenchmen after the game and Ponga said there was a concerted effort to display humility.

Junior Kangaroos Victor Radley and David Fifita with France's Roman Navarrete after a Test match in Wollongong in 2019.
Junior Kangaroos Victor Radley and David Fifita with France's Roman Navarrete after a Test match in Wollongong in 2019. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

"The first thing about being part of an Australian squad is respect. We showed respect to them and they showed respect to us," Ponga said.

"One of them didn’t really speak much English but he said 'jersey' and I knew what that meant.

"We went out there to show respect and it showed at the end of the game."

While France's players were likely a little starstruck, Ponga also said it was a "privilege" to share the field with some of the NRL's brightest young talents.

It was a sweet way to end a topsy-turvy year for Ponga which included Nathan Brown departing as Knights coach before the season's end as the club missed the finals.

"I'll forget about [the season], to be honest. I always want to look forward," Ponga said.

"We've got exciting things to come. In saying that, I respect Browny and everything he did for me this year.

"I've only heard good things about Adam [O'Brien] so I'm just excited to get back into camp."

Australia pulled through the fixture mostly unscathed, save for captain David Fifita requiring stitches to fix a facial gash.

Croft honoured to help lead star-studded line up

Forward Nat Butcher was limping at one stage but told he was fine and had only been kneed in the thigh.

Representing the Junior Kangaroos completed a terrific season for Butcher, who went from a fringe first grader to a premiership winner with the Roosters.

"To put on the green and gold was very humbling and to play with the calibre of boys that we did, it's a real honour," Butcher said.

Butcher applauded the decision to increase the Junior Kangaroos age limit from under-20s to 23s and wants to see further matches against stiffer opponents.

"It makes it a lot more competitive and we can play a lot of those tier-two nations and really compete with them," Butcher said.

"Hopefully in the future we get a couple of games against tier-one nations."

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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