PM's XIII likely to face weakened PNG team

 

Australian coach Mal Meninga insists the Prime Minister's XIII international game remains relevant for Rugby League World Cup selections despite a scheduling mix up expected to deplete the Papua New Guinea outfit.

Eleven players with Kangaroos experience have been selected for the clash between the two teams in Port Moresby on September 23.

But Meninga conceded his side would face a vastly weakened PNG team with the PNG Hunters - who'd normally make up the bulk of the Kumuls - through to the Intrust Super Cup Grand Final on September 24.

"It's going to be a weakened PNG side, full stop. We've talked about that," he said on Wednesday.

"It's about respecting the green and gold jersey and the opposition as well."

Meninga said whoever the Australians faced would still pose a physical challenge for his World Cup aspirants.



"For our players to put themselves in the forefront of selection they've got to perform," he said.

Cronulla playmaker James Maloney spearheads the list of players hoping to use the match as one last chance to press for World Cup selection.

The 31-year-old was named at halfback in the side to led by NSW Blues prop Aaron Woods.

Only players already out of the finals series were considered for the clash, giving Maloney one last chance to impress, while his chief rivals Cameron Munster and Michael Morgan battled it out for their clubs.

Maloney was picked in the Kangaroos' Origin merit team squad, selected by Meninga at the end of the Origin series.

His performances, however, have paled in comparison to those of Munster and Morgan over the final months of the NRL season.

The bulk of the squad is made up of NSW players, with Sydney Roosters trio of Boyd Cordner, Mitchell Pearce and Blake Ferguson the only players left in the finals from the Blues' unsuccessful 2017 Origin campaign.

But Meninga, the most successful coach in Origin history, was quick to deflect any favouritism when it came to selecting the Kangaroos World Cup squad.

"I'm expecting a strong Kangaroos side regardless of where they come from," he said. The scheduling clash undermines Papua New Guinea at a time when calls are increasing for the Kumuls to be represented with an NRL team.

"You talk about adding a second Brisbane team or a team on the Central Coast ... I think we have to get a team there," departing Canterbury captain James Graham said on Fox Sports' NRL 360.

"They really do epitomise what it means to lift (when playing) for your country."

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