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Kangaroos form team: Expert panel picks Australian squad

Each month, NRL.com experts Jamie Soward, Brett Kimmorley and Steve Renouf will pick their own 17-man Australian Kangaroos merit squads based on form.

Following three rounds of the 2021 Telstra Premiership, they've made some big calls in the first edition of the series presented by Gallagher.

Incumbency and career achievements weren't part of the selection criteria, so the teams aren't necessarily a reflection of who the experts believe should make Australia's next official squad.

Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary won the halfback spot in the composite squad having been chosen by Soward and Renouf. He only played the first two games before suffering a head knock, but Cleary led Penrith to back-to-back shutout wins.

The playmaker, who hasn't represented Australia at Test level, has also kicked six goals at 75 percent so far this year.

Despite the Storm beginning their title defence by winning one from three matches, five-eighth Cameron Munster has maintained his strong form and earned the nod in the combined squad.

Up front, Eels prop Junior Paulo claimed a place alongside Josh Papalii on the back of a barnstorming start to 2021.

Marquee Titans recruits David Fifita and Tino Fa'asuamaleaui shrugged off an indifferent debut for their new club to star in consecutive wins over the Broncos and Cowboys. The explosive youngsters were unanimous back-row picks.

Wingers Josh Addo-Carr and Daniel Tupou were selected by Soward, Kimmorley and Renouf. Latrell Mitchell may now be a fullback, but the Rabbitohs star was chosen at centre by the judges.

Mitchell, who has scored two tries and assisted in another four, is partnered by gun Panthers centre Stephen Crichton.

The 20-year-old has continued on from an outstanding 2020 and sealed Penrith's win over Melbourne last round with a clutch conversion, further adding to his all-round value.

Electric Storm fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen was a popular bench utility.

Here's who the experts individually picked:

Jamie Soward

It was a no-brainer for Soward to opt for Munster and Cleary, describing them as "the best halves in the game", while he gave the same positional praise to wingers Addo-Carr and Tupou.

The Dragons premiership winner believes Damien Cook has found a rhythm with his dangerous dummy-half running game.

"I'd have James Tedesco as my fullback and captain. I think his form to start the year has been fantastic. He's still leading from the front, still putting himself in the frame to make big plays," Soward added.

"I think you'd just give Stephen Crichton a chance [at centre] to see what he could do. Imagine him and Tupou on the same edge with the halves kicking to them.

"Latrell has to be in the side. It’s the happiest and most relaxed I've seen Latrell play and it's showing in his form.

"Tino Fa'asuamaleaui's workrate is ridiculous. I love watching him play. He's probably in my top three or players to watch every week."

Steve Renouf

Luke Keary's ACL injury allowed Cleary to start in Renouf's team. The Broncos legend would've chosen veteran Rooster Brett Morris on a wing if he wasn't retired from representative football, while Ben Hunt's fractured fibula cost the Dragons captain a bench spot.

"The centres were hard with no real standouts in my opinion, so I went with Latrell Mitchell and Clint Gutherson," Renouf said.

"In the pack, I think Jai Arrow should be in any team and Tino Fa'asuamaleaui and David Fifita have been great. I don't think the [official Australian selectors] would pick David Klemmer again, but he's had a good start to the season.

"It was a tough choice in the halves, but Cody Walker has earned his spot. These players have been performing."

Brett Kimmorley

Dane Gagai's consistency, strong carries and penchant for stepping up in big games was Kimmorley's reasoning for picking him as the wing offsider to Addo-Carr, who shares the same attributes.

Kimmorley, a 20-time Australian halfback himself, showed faith in incumbent No.7 Daly Cherry-Evans despite Manly's poor start.

"My lock forward would be Cam Murray ... A slight, athletic middle forward who can ball-play," Kimmorley said.

"Junior Paulo and Josh Papalii are powerful [props], play big minutes, ball-play, they're skilful, tough. They'd get momentum for us."

He assembled an interchange without any Test experience.

"Christian Welch would come on and tidy up the middle. He does all those one-percenters very well for the Melbourne Storm," he said.

"Kurt Capewell is on the bench as well. A guy who played for Queensland last year and did an outstanding job. He's versatile and has the ability to play in the centres or the back-row."

 

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.