Meninga shuffles pack for Four Nations opener
RUGBY LEAGUE: Coach Mal Meninga said there was no such thing as a weak Australian team after naming five debutants for Saturday morning's (AEST) Four Nations opener with Scotland in Hull.
Meninga has made 10 changes to the team that beat New Zealand in Perth earlier this month, with Matt Moylan, James Maloney, Justin O'Neill, Jake Trbojevic and Jake Friend all to get a first game for the Kangaroos.
Moylan will start at fullback, while Maloney is rewarded for a stellar season with the Sharks with the No.6 jersey. Trbojevic will play lock, while Friend will come on from the bench.
Meninga said all members of his 24-man squad were capable of making the starting team if called upon.
"We can make a full-strength side with any of these group of players,” Meninga said.
"I always planned to ensure the entire 24-man squad has played across the Perth Test and the Four Nations match against Scotland.
"That will set us up nicely for the rest of the tournament.”
Greg Inglis, Johnathan Thurston, Matt Scott and Darius Boyd were all left out for the clash against the Scots as Meninga looks ahead to next Saturday's big game with New Zealand at Coventry.
Following the game with the Kiwis, Australia will take on host England at the London Stadium, which hosted the 2012 Olympics, on November 12.
Meninga said there was a number of things to consider before settling on his strongest team and nothing had been decided yet.
"I do have an idea of what my best possible squad will be, but all players know that they can break into the top team with a strong performance,” he said.
One of those is Panthers lock Trent Merrin, who has been named on the interchange bench against Scotland.
Merrin said nothing could be taken for granted against the world No.9-ranked Scots and said the squad had trained as if it was playing a higher-ranked opponent.
"You're around the best of the best here,” Merrin said of training with the Australian squad.
"Everyone takes it very serious, and we came here to get the job done. Every session is high intensity and everyone's putting in 100%.
"It's always going to be a big test.
"You know they're going to come out and play real tough footy so we're preparing for a real tough game and they'll give us a good lead-in to the (rest of the) Four Nations.”
Team: Matt Moylan, Josh Mansour, Justin O'Neill, Josh Dugan, Blake Ferguson, James Maloney, Cooper Cronk, Aaron Woods, Cameron Smith (capt), David Klemmer, Sam Thaiday, Tyson Frizell, Jake Trobojevic. Interchange: Jake Friend, Shannon Boyd, Trent Merrin, Michael Morgan, Valentine Holmes. (one to be omitted).