Australia to rest NRL Grand Final stars for World Cup opener against Fiji

James Gordon
Mal Meninga

Picture by Simon Wilkinson/

The four Australia players who played in the NRL Grand Final will not feature in their World Cup opener against Fiji at Headingley on Saturday.

Penrith skipper Nathan Cleary was the stand-out omission from Mal Meninga’s squad for what is Australia’s first game in 1,078 days.

Cleary’s Penrith team-mates Isaah Yeo and Liam Martin, as well as Parramatta’s Reagan Campbell-Gillard will also sit out.

They all featured in Penrith’s 28-12 win in the Grand Final nine days ago.

Meninga said: “This is an extremely strong team and suits what we are trying to achieve over the whole tournament.

“The Grand Final players will not play against Fiji, while a number of the players we have named have not played in weeks. It’s important to give them match time as we look at our combinations.

“All of the players who will not play against Fiji will play the next match against Scotland.”

It means Manly’s Daly Cherry-Evans will start at half-back alongside Cameron Munster, who has just signed a new $1m a year deal at Melbourne.

The Kangaroos will give debuts to seven players, including North Queensland trio Murray Taulagi, Jeremiah Nanai and Reuben Cotter.

Gold Coast captain Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Sydney Roosters back-rower Angus Chrichton, Melbourne hooker Harry Grant and Brisbane loose forward Pat Carrigan will also win their first caps.

James Tedesco will captain the side, having played for Italy in each of the two previous World Cups.

After facing Fiji at Headingley, Australia then play Scotland in Coventry (October 21) and Italy in St Helens (October 29).

Australia team v Fiji

James Tedesco, Josh Addo-Carr, Latrell Mitchell, Valentine Holmes, Murray Taulagi, Cameron Munster, Daly Cherry-Evans, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Ben Hunt, Jake Trbojevic, Angus Crichton, Jeremiah Nanai, Cameron Murray. Subs: Harry Grant, Reuben Cotter, Pat Carrigan, Jack Wighton. 18th man: Matt Burton.