Papalii prepared to carry injury against Kiwis
KANGAROOS coach Mal Meninga says injured Canberra prop Josh Papalii is willing to put his country ahead of his body in Friday night's Test against New Zealand at WIN Stadium.
The Raiders forward suffered a rib injury during his side's 14-8 grand final loss to the Sydney Roosters almost three weeks ago.
Papalii failed to complete a field session on Tuesday after he aggravated the injury during Kangaroos training in Kiama.
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"He woke up feeling pretty good so we are going to monitor him for the rest of the day. We train [on Friday], when we go through our captain's run and we'll make a decision then," Meninga said.
Scans cleared the prop of any serious damage.
"It was a bit of cartilage on his chest bone injury that happened in the grand final that is still a bit sore. He pulled up well but as a precaution he did some scans.
"He's fine, we hope it settles down well enough. But he is keen to play, he wants to play, which is why we are waiting [to make a decision]."
While Meninga remained coy on Papalii's availability, Kiwis coach Michael Maguire is expecting the form Raiders forward to run out in Wollongong and for his pack not to hold back.
"I'm sure he's going to play. I'm sure everyone's rib will be tested out at some stage. I'm expecting him to play, it's a rib cartilage injury," Maguire said.
Friday night's match will feature five debutants in a changing of the guard for the Kangaroos with former Test regulars Cameron Smith, Greg Inglis, Cooper Cronk, Johnathan Thurston and Billy Slater all either retiring from the game or representative football in the last two years.
For Kangaroos captain Boyd Cordner, the inclusion of Payne Haas, Nick Cotric, Jack Wighton, Josh Addo-Carr and Paul Vaughan is an opportunity for the newest crop of players to create their own Kangaroos legacy.
"We have spoken about the players that have retired now that were a big part of this team … it's up to us to take that forward and make our own bit of history now," Cordner said.
"The guys who are going to be debuting on Friday night have earned their spot in this team. It's refreshing to see these guys buy into what we are trying to do.
"They have bought into the culture really well. Some of them have been in camp for awhile now having gone to Fiji for the Prime Minister's XIII and then the Nines. They've been together for a few weeks and are loving it."
The depth in Australia's talent pool also extends into the Junior Kangaroos squad which features the likes of Victor Radley, Angus Crichton and captain David Fifita.
It's an area of player development that Kiwis coach Maguire is working hard to emulate across the ditch.
"We've been talking about it in the background about developing our larger squads. We haven't been able to play games but we spent a lot of time together as Kiwis during the season," Maguire said.
"A lot of the younger guys have been brought in to understand what the Kiwi way is also about. To be able to play games down the track is something we are looking at for sure."
New Zealand trumped Australia 26-24 in last year's corresponding Test match at Mt Smart Stadium. But Maguire knows this fresh Kangaroos side will shape as a difficult proposition.
"We've grown as a group [since that game] but we know the job at hand and do the little things well for each other which these boys are doing and talking about all the time," he said.