League: Thurston racing to be fit for Kiwis

By News.com.au

Kangaroos' Johnathan Thurston looks on. Photo / Photosport
Kangaroos' Johnathan Thurston looks on. Photo / Photosport

Injured superstar Johnathan Thurston is facing a race against the clock to prove his fitness for next Friday's transtasman Anzac league test against the Kiwis at GIO Stadium in Canberra after he was named in the Kangaroos' No6 jersey despite missing the past fortnight in the NRL with a calf injury.

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

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 No1 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 yesterday's squad announcement, before offering hope 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.

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.

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.

Skipper Cameron Smith will play his 50th test for Australia.

- news.com.au

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