Souths superstar Greg Inglis ready to be Aussies’ No.1 guy
THEY were great mates when they started their rugby league journeys together with Melbourne, and are brothers in arms for Queensland.
But this weekend Greg Inglis can take the first steps to seriously threaten Billy Slater's hold on the Australian No.1 jumper that he has worn in most of his 25 Tests for his country.
Premiership-winning South Sydney fullback Inglis conceded the 31-year-old Melbourne Storm custodian Slater would be playing fullback against New Zealand in Brisbane in Saturday night's Four Nations series-opener if he hadn't required post-season shoulder surgery.
But Inglis didn't hide from the fact he is excited about the prospect of making his debut at fullback in his 30th Test for Australia, and possibly making the position where he plays in the NRL his own in the future, even at Slater's expense.
"It (playing fullback for Australia) is something I have been striving for, but it's a bit hard when you have someone like Billy Slater ahead of you," Inglis said.
"I have to take my opportunity and hopefully hold onto the jumper, but as long as I am in this side it doesn't matter what number I wear.
"I guess I have age on my side. Billy is in his 30s and I am 27. At the end of the day it will sort itself out as time goes on."
Inglis said people were writing off the Kangaroos, but warned the injection of several young players had boosted the excitement and enthusiasm levels of the side.
Sheens named a 20-man squad which he will cut to 17 by game time. It included rookies Dylan Walker, Josh Mansour, Daniel Tupou and prop Aaron Woods in the starting XIII. Four other rookies - Aidan Guerra, Boyd Cordner, David Klemmer and Sione Mata'utia - were included on an extended seven-man bench.
"A player like Dylan Walker bring that unknown x-factor to the team," said Inglis.
"With Dyl, he's one of those machines who can turn up anywhere. He's one of those kids who just loves being out there playing footy.
"He can fit in anywhere. You can put him at wing, or centre or five-eighth, where he did a good job for us (Souths) when Luke Keary was out earlier in the year."
Inglis said New Zealand was always a dangerous proposition, adding Australia would need to be on its game on Saturday night.
"They've got so much exciting talent. It doesn't matter who is in their side, you have to turn up ready to play because they can be very dangerous, as we discovered earlier this year," he said.
AUSTRALIA v NEW ZEALAND
Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane Saturday night, 6.45pm (AEST)
KANGAROOS: Inglis, Mansour, Jennings, Walker, Tupou, Cherry-Evans, Cronk, Woods, Smith (c), Thaiday, Scott, Hoffman, Bird. Inter: Farah, Guerra, Papalii, Parker, Cordner, Klemmer, Mata'utia (three to be omitted). Coach: Tim Sheens. KIWIS: Hiku, Nightingale, Kenny-Dowall, Whare, Watene-Zelezniak, Foran, Johnson, Bromwich, T Leuluai, Blair, Mannering (c), Proctor, Taumalolo. Inter: Brown, Eastwood, Taupau, Harris, Matagi (one to be omitted). Coach: Stephen Kearney.
ENGLAND v SAMOA
Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane Saturday night, 4pm (AEST)
ENGLAND: S Tomkins, Charnley, Watkins, Shenton, Hall, Widdop, Smith, G Burgess, Hodgson, Graham (c), Farrell, J Tomkins, Westerman. Inter: Clark, Ferres, T Burgess, Hill. Coach: Steve McNamara. SAMOA: Simona, Winterstein, Leutele, J Leilua, Vidot, Roberts, Stanley, Tagaetese, M Sio, Fa'alogo, Pritchard, Ah Mau, McGuire. Inter: Godinet, Sene-Lefao, Liu, Masoe, Lui (one to be omitted). Coach: Matt Parish.