League: Fifita's Cup role beyond big man's wildest dreams

By Paul Crawley

Andrew Fifita says he's gobsmacked about being named in Australia's World Cup team. Photo / Getty Images
Andrew Fifita says he's gobsmacked about being named in Australia's World Cup team. Photo / Getty Images

At the start of this year big Andrew Fifita set up a whiteboard in his kitchen and wrote down three goals for 2013 - but the one thing he didn't even dare to dream about was playing for Australia at the World Cup.

But that impossible dream is about to come true when Fifita is officially named today to make his test debut for the Kangaroos in Sunday's World Cup opening match against England at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

Fifita joins the bench with Robbie Farah, who will get the nod over Daly Cherry-Evans for the utility spot - Queensland veteran Brent Tate has won the race for the vacant right centre position and Corey Parker will also be named on the bench two years after his first and only test appearance in a match also played in Wales.

A jubilant Fifita last night revealed head coach Tim Sheens had told the players who was in the 17-man squad while they were still in Manchester before travelling to Wales to finalise their preparations for Australia's first game of the tournament.

"I am just gob-smacked, it's a year to remember," Fifita said. "I actually put on my whiteboard at home that I wanted to play rep footy this year but I was thinking All Stars, City-Country and Tonga in the World Cup.

"I didn't even dare to think about State of Origin or playing for Australia.

"I'm just so happy."

Fifita had to put his honeymoon on hold when he was married just days before the Aussies flew to England. He had been due to go on to Hawaii with wife Nikkita and baby boy Latu Jay.

But that sacrifice has paid off now, with the test prop sure to reap the financial benefits of his new-found status in the coming year.

He is off contract at the Sharks at the end of next season and he admits rival sharks are already circling.

"Yeah, there is a few of them (sniffing around) but I love the Sharks and we are in talks now with my management," he said. "I'll be looking to stay a bit longer. Cronulla has done a lot for me and I love the Shire."

There's been speculation all year that Fifita might run into a road block at the World Cup because of his past links with Sheens at the Wests Tigers.

But Sheens said there was never any bad blood. "Look, his own coach says 'he's work' and that would describe him," Sheens joked about Fifita's wildman reputation. "But he has had a great year ... He played really well for Cronulla and in State of Origin he was one of the best props ... And he has trained really well here.

"He is our big man. They all talk about young George Burgess coming off the bench (for England) and Kasiano for the Kiwis, he is our answer to that type of player."

Aside from Tate's inclusion, the Aussie backline is as expected. Billy Slater is fullback, Darius Boyd and Brett Morris the wingers, Greg Inglis and Tate the centres and Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston the halves.

Starting forwards are Paul Gallen, Greg Bird, Sam Thaiday, James Tamou, Cameron Smith and Matt Scott.

While Sheens will today announce a 17-man squad, unofficially he will keep a squad of 20 players to prepare with Nate Myles, Jarryd Hayne and Cherry-Evans all on the emergency list.

- Daily Telegraph, Sydney

Aussie lineup

Australian team to play England

Billy Slater, Brett Morris, Greg Inglis, Brent Tate, Darius Boyd, Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk, Matthew Scott, Cameron Smith (c), Greg Bird, Sam Thaiday, Paul Gallen. Interchange: Andrew Fifita, Luke Lewis, Robbie Farah, Corey Parker.

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