World Cup winning team largely kept intact for one-off clash.
Selectors on Sunday resisted the temptation to make major changes to the Australia side that lifted last year’s Rugby League World Cup for Friday’s Test against New Zealand in Sydney.
Fullback Billy Slater and scrum-half Cooper Cronk kept their places in the starting Test side despite indifferent club form with Melbourne Storm and outstanding recent performances from Greg Inglis and Daly Cherry-Evans.
South Sydney fullback Inglis was selected in the centres and Manly’s Cherry-Evans, who produced a dazzling display against Canberra on Sunday, was named on the interchange bench.
Australia defeated New Zealand 34-2 in the World Cup final in Manchester last December.
Coach Tim Sheens named Sam Thaiday even though the Brisbane back-rower missed the last two games for his club due to a calf injury.
Sheens admits his team will be overwhelming favourites to beat an inexperienced New Zealand side but expects the Kiwi players to have a point to prove.
“With six debutants getting an opportunity they’ll be busting to play well. I think it’s going to be an intense game,” he said.
“I understand we’ll be favourites for this game, but it’s sometimes hard to play from in front and they have nothing to lose.”
Parramatta star Jarryd Hayne was ruled out of Test selection with a shoulder injury and Canterbury’s Josh Morris was selected at centre despite the return to fitness of long-time incumbent Justin Hodges.
Australia (1-13) – Billy Slater; Darius Boyd, Greg Inglis, Josh Morris, Brett Morris; Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk; Matthew Scott, Cameron Smith (capt), James Tamou; Greg Bird, Sam Thaiday; Paul Gallen.
Interchange: Daly Cherry-Evans, Boyd Cordner, Nate Myles, Corey Parker.