Mal Meninga's decision to pick Dylan Edwards on the wing for his Kangaroos debut has divided opinion in the NRL world, with many of the belief that he should be the fullback instead of James Tedesco. Edwards will make his debut for Australia on Saturday against Samoa, but the Panthers fullback will line up in the unfamiliar position of wing.
Edwards was initially overlooked when Meninga announced his 21-man squad for the Pacific Championships, but earned a late call-up due to a suspension being handed down to Josh Addo-Carr. Meninga revealed his team to take on Samoa on Tuesday afternoon, with Edwards one of four debutants.
Selwyn Cobbo will line up on the other wing to Edwards, while Katoni Staggs and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow are the new-look centre pairing. While the majority of fans were happy to see Edwards get a start after some stellar form for the Panthers over the last four years, some questioned why he would be picked on the wing and not at his preferred position of fullback.
Meninga has stuck solid with Tedesco, who has captained the Kangaroos for a number of years and led them to glory at the World Cup last year. The 30-year-old had an up-and-down year for the Roosters and was outperformed by a number of young fullbacks - namely Edwards, Reece Walsh and Kalyn Ponga.
"Making Edwards play on the wing and keeping Tedesco at fullback is like getting Adele to sing backing vocals for Sophie Monk," one fan wrote on social media. Another commented: "Always baffles me when a fullback is put wing or any position. If Edwards isn't good enough to play fullback this time (which he is btw) then he shouldn't be picked. Aussies are blessed with wingers and its a real kick in the teeth when this happens."
Addo-Carr has been sanctioned by the NRL over his involvement in a brawl at the Koori Knockout Indigenous carnival and is unlikely to play in the Pacific Championship Tests. Valentine Holmes, who was part of the World Cup-winning team last year, is also unavailable for the Samoa clash after he was hit with a one-game ban over a photo of him holding a bag of white powder that did the rounds on social media. Whether or not Edwards holds his spot when Holmes returns remains to be seen.
"I'll play anywhere a coach wanted me to play," Edwards told AAP last month. "I do the same thing at Penrith. I haven't played centre of wing for a while. But I love playing footy and I would love playing anywhere. If they pick me somewhere, they pick me for a reason. I'd have to do a lot of work. I would do a lot of video and talk with the coaches."
— Gallagher Australian Kangaroos (@Kangaroos) October 10, 2023
Mal Meninga picks four debutants for Kangaroos
Speaking on Monday, Edwards revealed he'd planned a family holiday when he initially missed out on selection in the Kangaroos squad. “I was packing as I got the phone call, so I cancelled all of that and am focused on this,” he told Channel 9. “(Footy) is a job, it’s a dream.”
The 27-year-old said he hadn't given too much thought to Kangaroos selection, despite being one of the form fullbacks over the last four years and helping the Panthers win three premierships. "I think playing in these sorts of sides are a by-product of success at club land," he said. "I’m fortunate to be in a really good side back there and thought if ever the day comes, it’ll come and I’ll try and take it with both hands.”
Outside of the four debutants, Meninga's side is largely as expected elsewhere. Daly Cherry-Evans is the starting halfback with Nathan Cleary out of the tournament with a knee injury. Nine players from Australia's World Cup final team are included in the 17, with Jake Trbojevic left out of the side after starting at prop in last year's decider against Samoa.
Making Edwards play on the wing and keeping Tedesco at fullback is like getting Adele to sing backing vocals for Sophie Monk.
— 🏴 𝐉𝐀𝐂𝐎𝐁 🇦🇺 (@MrJacobSheppard) October 9, 2023
Edwards on the wing is a crime to Rugby League. He should be the fullback.
— Liam (@Coachable_) October 10, 2023
Edwards should be FB , Aus has always been able to pick out of position and get away with it because of the lack of quality in international RL . This is not a challenge . They could give away a 30 point headstart and still win if they played to their potential .
— Andrew Dickinson (@Andrewerd) October 10, 2023
Ridiculous selection of Edwards.
Carrigan and Murray are far superior 13s to Yeo who I believe is up there with the most overrated players in the comp.
Otherwise the side is a good one.
— Duppy (@Duppys78) October 10, 2023
Always baffles me when a full back is put wing or any position. If Edwards isn't good enough to play full back this time (which he is btw) then he shouldn't be picked. Aussies are blessed with wingers and its a real kick in the teeth when this happens
— Chris Simm (@chrissimm9) October 10, 2023
Dylan Edwards is a great player but he should either be playing at fullback or not at all. This continuing trend of using club fullbacks as centres or wingers in rep sides (eg Latrell, Tommy Trbojevic, now Dylan Edwards) is such an insult to specialist centres & wingers 😐
— David P (@David_Paul_B) October 10, 2023
- Edwards being named on the wing and Jake Trbojevic not being named is 🤔…
- Sua Faalongo at FB and intercept king at 6 is exciting
- Tonegato not being named in the starting 13 speaks to the Jillaroos depth 🤯
- Great to see Tyla Nathan Wong get a game too! https://t.co/XVDqZPc5iT
— Michael Ponticello (@therealminirabs) October 10, 2023
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