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Kangaroos form team: New faces in expert panel's Australian squad

Panthers duo Brian To'o and Isaah Yeo have broken into the second Australian merit team chosen on form by Jamie Soward, Brett Kimmorley and Steve Renouf.

Every month this season, for a series presented by Gallagher, the experts will each select a 17-man Kangaroos squad with a composite team then assembled based on their most popular picks.

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

While many players retained their spot from the first merit team selected at the start of April, there were a few key additions.

After his spectacular comeback from a hamstring injury, Manly star Tom Trbojevic won a place in the centres alongside Latrell Mitchell, who kept his jersey despite being suspended after round six.

Like Mitchell, Trbojevic is a fullback by trade, but with three tries, four try assists, four line-breaks and 12 tackle-breaks in three games in 2021, the experts were compelled to make room for him.

Elite Roosters fullback James Tedesco was again named in the No.1 jersey even though he missed round eight after a head knock.

To'o replaced Tedesco's Tricolours teammate Daniel Tupou on the wing, however with his powerful performances too good to ignore.

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From rounds 4-8, the Penrith young gun has averaged 266 metres, scored four tries and made seven line-breaks.

To'o is in the mix for a NSW State of Origin debut and Soward and Renouf think he also wouldn't look out of place in green-and-gold.

Nathan Cleary was unanimously selected at halfback, so too Damien Cook at hooker, while Payne Haas and Junior Paulo earned the prop positions on the back of strong displays for Brisbane and Parramatta.

Titans star Tino Fa'asuamaleaui claimed the lock position last month but after missing round 7-8 through suspension, he was displaced by Yeo, whose game continues to improve for the Panthers.

Over the past five weeks, Yeo has averaged 41 tackles - only missing four - while surpassing 100 metres for the last three games.

Elsewhere, Angus Crichton bumped out Tyson Frizell to partner David Fifita in the second row, Cameron Munster retained the five-eighth duties and the bench was the same apart from Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Jai Arrow superseding Cam Murray and Daniel Saifiti.

Here's who the experts individually picked:

Jamie Soward

The 2010 premiership winner opted for To'o and Tupou on the wings for their "work-rate and ability to get the sets started".

"Tupou amazingly continues to be underrated and Brian, his numbers speak for themselves," Soward said.

"The centres would be Latrell Mitchell and Tom Trbojevic. Honourable mention to Zac Lomax, I thought that he'd had a fantastic start to the season and a really good month, but if it's being picked right now and all those guys were available, Tom and Latrell would prove really dangerous in the centres.

"Six and seven would be Munster and Cleary. Not too much argument there - Munster is one of the top three or four players in the game and Cleary is the best player in the world at the moment.

"You've got the perfect yin and yang.

"Payne Haas - his work-rate and his ability to take it to the other team is something that I've admired even when Brisbane have been struggling with the way he's been playing."

Brett Kimmorley

A NSW and Australian representative, Kimmorley sprung a surprise by selecting Valentine Holmes on the wing, where he was a try-scoring machine for the Kangaroos before an NFL stint in 2019.

"Val's returned to a bit of form for the Cowboys lately, I think he's one of the best to watch," Kimmorley explained.

"Before he went to the NFL he was one of the best wingers in the competition and played for Australia and Queensland on the wing. I feel like he's returning to the Val Holmes that we knew pre-NFL.

"The front-row is going to be the two front-rowers from Parramatta, Campbell-Gillard and Paulo, on their consistent form throughout the season. [Josh] Papali'i is a little bit out of form and being rested, and I think these two guys are getting the accolades they deserve."

Kimmorley described Crichton as "the most in-form back-rower in the competition" and said Yeo's "development is pretty influential with how Penrith are going. He's a good ball-player and suits the style of football - 13 has become one of the most important positions."

Steve Renouf

The toughest call for the Broncos legend was leaving 18-year-old Roosters halfback Sam Walker out of the side.

"It's more when you look at the combination of the other two [Cleary and Jarome Luai]. They've got a really good combo on the field. That's what you want as an Australian coach," Renouf said.

"But Sam Walker could be in there quite easily."

He added that Trbojevic's influence on the Sea Eagles has been "amazing", making it a "no-brainer" to pick him at fullback.

"[Trbojevic] is a guy you want to have in your team - he's such a presence on the field," Renouf said.

Rabbitohs back-rower Keaon Koloamatangi, who has only played 20 NRL matches, was the surprise packet on the bench.

"I've been watching him play, and him and [Jaydn] Su'A have really stepped up this year," Renouf said.

"He's gone to another level and I love what he does. He's tough, he bends the line and he's just a really good forward."

 

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