Meninga braces for brutal Kangaroos calls

Mal Meninga enjoyed making people guess the composition of his first-choice team Kangaroos, but the Australian manager says the imminent call-up of his number 1 midfielder won’t be a laughing matter.

Meninga took the unorthodox approach of releasing the team for Saturday’s Rugby League World Cup final round match (AEDT Sunday) with Italy in St Helens in alphabetical order rather than by position.

It’s the first time Daly Cherry-Evans and Nathan Cleary will play together, but in releasing his list of AZ teams, Meninga didn’t avoid the headache of naming one of them as a running back. -Backwards.

“I just launched this (the team’s alphabet sheet) to entertain people, it enjoyed me a lot,” he said.

“I threw some curvy balls and it sparked some interest and comments.”

With a quarter-final likely pitting his side against Lebanon before a probable semi-final against New Zealand, Meninga knows a crucial decision looms with the tightest midfield role.

Six years into the role, Meninga explained that telling people who weren’t by his side was still the “worst part of the job”.

“I’m getting closer to (knowing) what we’re going to do with our top 19 players to move us forward,” he said.

“There is an important game this week and I feel there are some positions up for grabs.

“It will be hard work identifying the players, but that’s what I’m doing.

“The hardest part will be giving them a reason why they didn’t make it.”

Both traditional halfbacks Cherry-Evans and Cleary said earlier this week that they would share the game’s key decisions.

Neither is married to being the team’s number 7 organizer or fifth eighth in the race, and Meninga said he was pleased with how quickly they found an understanding with first-choice number 6 Cameron Munster, to whom he is a week off was granted.

“They bonded very well,” Meninga said.

“They also have fun together all the time and have their roles solved, which is great.”

They are not the only ones to have question marks about their roles, with Meninga still to work out the composition of his attack pack.

The Kangaroos manager is likely to start captain James Tedesco against the Italians, who he represented in the last two World Cups, with Meninga ready to give Latrell Mitchell time in defense.

“He was doing extras on everything (earlier this week),” Meninga said. “He didn’t like sitting down last week, so he’s looking forward to it.”

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