Mal’s selection headache for Darwin challenge
AUSTRALIA are expected to trot out their best 17 in their Rugby League World Cup quarter-final against Samoa in Darwin on Friday night.
The only positions up for grabs in Mal Meninga's side are five-eighth and the bench utility spot.
Melbourne playmaker Cameron Munster made a compelling case to beat Michael Morgan and James Maloney for the No.6 jersey with a two-try effort against Lebanon on Friday.
Meanwhile the Kangaroos have been given a boost after star front-rowers David Klemmer and Aaron Woods were cleared by the match review committee after they were put on report were put on report during their 34-0 walkover of Lebanon.
Klemmer was penalised for knocking out Cedars second-rower Chris Saab midway through the first half on Saturday, with his shoulder making contact with Saab's head.
Woods was booked for a dangerous lifting tackle on Tim Mannah in the second half of their final pool game.
Meninga is expected to go for a four-forward bench rotation - with temperatures expected to top 33C in Darwin on Friday - with Wade Graham tipped to get the nod for the utility position.
"The conditions will definitely play a part in the final 17," skipper Cameron Smith said.
"There's only three or four guys who have been up to Darwin and played there.
"We're all quite unfamiliar with the conditions so we just want to get up there nice and early, get outdoors and get into our training routine."
On the England bench, Gareth Widdop has given Wayne Bennett serious food for thought after starring at fullback in the team's 36-6 win over France.
However, it didn't lay to rest questions about whether they could compete with tournament favourites Australia after an unimpressive second half.
The biggest bright spot for the English was Widdop, who scored the opening try and set up another, playing in the No.1 jersey for the first time since 2012.
Having established himself in the halves in the NRL, Bennett moved Widdop to the back to give Luke Gale and Kevin Brown game time before the finals. Widdop not only acquitted himself well, he provided strike playing as a running fullback.
"He had a lot of energy and did some good things back there," Bennett said.
Bennett was coy on whether Widdop was an option to again slot into fullback in Sunday's quarter-final against Papua New Guinea, although he said he had decided on the make-up of his best 17.
"I pretty much know what I'm going to do," Bennett said.
England will meet PNG after the Kumuls completed a clean sweep of group C with a 64-0 belting of the USA with Lachlan Lam, the son of Adrian, scoring twice on his international debut.
New Zealand had their tournament thrown into chaos following a shock loss to Tonga on Saturday and are now on a collision course to meet Australia in the semi-finals.
First they must get through Fiji, who have scored the most points this tournament with 168.
Tonga will start favourites to advance to the final four ahead of their clash with Lebanon in Christchurch on Saturday.