Meninga: My world champs will only improve

Mal Meninga has issued a chilling warning to the rest of international rugby league after the Kangaroos lifted the World Cup for the 12th time.

The Australian coach, celebrating their third straight triumph following their win over Samoa, reckons the sport hasn't seen anything yet from his champion side.

"This is only the beginning of this team, I can assure you," said Meninga, who has added a second straight World Cup coaching triumph to his remarkable career c.v.

"All these guys are going to be together for the next three to six years."

He believes that under captain James Tedesco, who he praised effusively for his leadership in Saturday's 30-10 win at Old Trafford, the class of '22 will prove terrific guardians of Australia's ever more impressive roll of honour in the global game

"We go back to the early '70s when you're talking about a 90 per cent winning record (over the last half-century)," said Meninga, when asked about protecting the Kangaroos' reputation as one of the world's great sports teams.

"It's been a dominant time for an Australian team, and I think we accept that really well as a group of players in the green and gold.

"The expectation is we win tournaments - so it's not a burden to us, we carry that with great humility and respect.

"We understand what wearing the green and gold means. We understand that everyone doesn't want to see us win except for the most ardent Australian supporters - but we accept that and we get on with business."

Having expressed his delight, Meninga also reflected on his "relief" as a coach at retaining the title, while praising one of his star men who'd been the target of some criticism over the past month.

Asked about his 'big call' in picking Nathan Cleary to direct the side, he said: "I think he was excellent.

"It's been ridiculous to be honest with you, the banter that's been going on (over Cleary). But we have belief in our team and in what we're doing - and he was exceptional tonight."

His main source of pride, he added, was how well the side defended throughout the entire tournament, conceding just eight tries in all.

"Absolutely. We scrambled really well. There were times in tonight's game when Samoa threw everything at us and we handled it really well."