Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens is confident star player Billy Slater will be fit to face New Zealand in Friday’s ANZAC Test against New Zealand.
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Sheens said Slater’s incredible recovery from a knee injury during the 2013 World Cup proved he could trust the Melbourne Storm fullback to make the right decision for the good of the team.
Slater was ruled out of the tournament at the quarter-final stage before recovering to star for Australia in the final against New Zealand at Old Trafford.
“I spoke to him (Slater) today and there will be a medical followed by a physical test out on the field,” Sheens is quoted as saying by AAP.
“He’s pretty confident he will play, we will do a thorough test on him as we don’t want to risk him.
“Bill was very close to playing this week and is the incumbent at fullback by a long way and he proved to me in 2013 in the World Cup that when he says he is right he is right.
“If he’s not he’ll put his hand up and won’t risk the team.”
If Slater is to fail a late fitness test, Greg Inglis will move to fullback, with Michael Jennings to come into the side at centre left.
Sheens has called up four debutants for the Test clash, with Alex Johnston, Trent Merrin, Josh Dugan and Will Chambers all expected to play in th green and gold for the first time.
The Kangaroos coach said “talented” South Sydney Rabbitohs youngster Johnston deserved his chance at Test level.
“He’s easily coached, talented with a thirst for knowledge, what more do you want,” Sheens said.
“He’s versatile, he’s played fullback. Michael Maguire as a coach has an opinion of a fullback for him down the line. He is a talented kid.”
Australia: Billy Slater, Alex Johnston, Greg Inglis, Will Chambers, Josh Dugan, Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk, Matt Scott, Cameron Smith (capt), Aaron Woods, Greg Bird, Sam Thaiday, Corey Parker. Interchange: Luke Lewis, Trent Merrin, Nate Myles, James Tamou.