Johnathan Thurston faces a fitness race to be ready for the Anzac Test.
Johnathan Thurston faces a fitness race to be ready for the Anzac Test. Bradley Kanaris

Thurston in Kangaroos squad, but no room for Slater

INJURED superstar Johnathan Thurston is facing a race against the clock to prove his fitness for next Friday's trans-Tasman Test after he was named in the Kangaroos' No.6 jersey despite missing the last fortnight with a calf injury.

However, the news wasn't so bright for Storm superstar Billy Slater who failed to regain his spot in the national side after a successful return to the field for the Storm.

After spending the best part of two seasons on the sidelines with serious shoulder injuries, Slater has taken no time to hit form since returning to Melbourne's No.1 jersey but his strong bid for reselection in the Test side came up short.

"We agonised over it all but we thought that Darius Boyd deserved to hold his spot, he won man of the match in the Four Nations final and he's in great form, so we went that way," coach Mal Meninga said at Wednesday's squad announcement, before offering hope that the returning champion could still make the World Cup squad.

"If he gets through the season there'll be finals footy and Origin so that will become part of the criteria."

Meninga was largely loyal to the side that won him the Four Nations tournament at the end of last year, with Trent Merrin holding his spot at lock despite a slow start to the season.

However, two forced changes were made, with David Klemmer taking injured prop Matt Scott's place in the starting side and Will Chambers slotting in at left centre to replace Greg Inglis.

Chambers made his Test debut in 2015 but lost his place in the Queensland side last year due to injury and subsequently missed selection for the Four Nations.

He won a tight battle with fellow Queensland star Justin O'Neill for the centre spot, with the Cowboys three-quarter named 20th man for the squad after debuting for the Kangaroos at last year's Four Nations.

Both Chambers and O'Neill play on the right edge for their clubs but Meninga said he had no hesitation throwing Chambers into the side on the left.

"Will Chambers has played for Australia and played for Queensland on the left side so we had no problem picking him to fill that role," Meninga said.

Despite a slow start to the season, Michael Morgan retained his bench spot as the first choice utility, while Sam Thaiday was recalled to the side after a fractured eye socket ended his Four Nations campaign early.

James Maloney was named 19th man and will come into the side should Thurston fail to prove his fitness, while Four Nations tourists Shannon Boyd and O'Neill are the other shadow players.

While the selection was largely predictable, there will still be a very special feeling around next week's match with skipper Cameron Smith to play his 50th Test for Australia, becoming just the second player after his predecessor Darren Lockyer, who played 59 Tests, to reach the half century.

"This will be Cameron Smith's 50th Test match and will place the Test in a very special category," ARL Commission chairman John Grant said.

"It will place the Kangaroos captain in revered territory. It will also be Cameron's 27th match as captain.

"So in the 2017 Anzac Test, Cameron Smith will become just the second player to play 50 Tests for Australia, behind Darren Lockyer on 59.

"He will also join Clive Churchill as Australia's second most capped captain."

 

KANGAROOS SQUAD

1. Darius Boyd (Broncos)

2. Blake Ferguson (Roosters)

3. Will Chambers (Storm)

4. Josh Dugan (Dragons)

5. Valentine Holmes (Sharks)

6. Johnathan Thurston (Cowboys)

7. Cooper Cronk (Storm)

8. Aaron Woods (Wests Tigers)

9. Cameron Smith (Storm)

10. David Klemmer (Bulldogs)

11. Boyd Cordner (Roosters)

12. Matt Gillett (Broncos)

13. Trent Merrin (Panthers)

Interchange:

14. Michael Morgan (Cowboys)

15. Tyson Frizell (Dragons)

16. Josh Papalii (Raiders)

17. Sam Thaiday (Broncos)

18th man: Shannon Boyd (Raiders)

19th man: James Maloney (Sharks)

20th man: Justin O'Neill (Cowboys)

News Corp Australia


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