2023 NRL Player Movements
6 months ago | LeagueUnlimited Media
Penrith Panthers playmaker Nathan Cleary is tipped to get the nod at halfback as the Kangaroos prepare for a quarter-final meeting with Lebanon on Saturday morning.
Cleary and Daly Cherry-Evans both played in last week's 66-6 win over Italy, with five-eighth Cameron Munster rested.
With Munster back in the frame now, all eyes are on who partners the 28-year-old, with Cleary reportedly training at first-receiver ahead of Saturday's game.
That would see Cherry-Evans bumped back to the bench in place of Ben Hunt, who is being rested having figured in all three of Australia's opening games to begin the tournament.
Cherry-Evans though may still remain on the bench for the semi-finals should Australia progress and Hunt be fit to play.
It would be a gamble by Meninga given Hunt is the more versatile of the two, capable of playing at both halfback and hooker.
Speaking ahead of Saturday's game, Meninga said it was "extremely difficult" to leave any players out, with Matt Burton, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Jeremiah Nanai and Murray Taulagi all missing out.
In the case of Campbell-Gillard though, he has been sidelined with a cork thigh suffered in the win over Italy.
"All 24 players have been outstanding so far this tournament," Meninga said.
"It is extremely difficult to leave any player out. We have reached the knockout stages of the tournament and we need to ensure we have consistency in the squad and in the positions.
"Lebanon are a very good side and we expect a strong and creative performance from them."
Australia goes into Saturday's game off a 60-point win over Italy, finishing the pool matches with a total of 192 points to just 14 conceded.
Lebanon enters Saturday's game in fine form, having dismantled Jamaica 74-12 in its last start.
Led by Parramatta Eels halfback Mitchell Moses, Lebanon won two of three games in the pool stage, also defeating Ireland 32-14 while going down to New Zealand 34-12.
The Lebanon backline is brimming with NRL talent, with Bulldogs young gun Jacob Kiraz at fullback and joined by veterans Josh Mansour, Reece Robson and Abbas Miski.
Moses, meanwhile, is partnered in the halves by Tigers five-eighth Adam Doueihi, who was a standout performer in Lebanon's recent win over Jamaica.
Having copped a one-game suspension for dissent, Doueihi returned in a big way for the Cedars, setting up five tries in the 62-point win.
Mansour and Miski also put on a show on the wing, combining for five tries and almost 300 run metres.
The winner of this Saturday's game will face the victor of the New Zealand vs Fiji quarter-final.
Last meeting: Pool A 2017 - Australia 34 Lebanon 0
Australia claimed a comfortable 34-0 win over Lebanon back in 2017.
Who to watch: The last time Cameron Munster faced Lebanon in a World Cup game he scored two tries. He was also playing in the centres. Now though Munster will be getting his hands on the ball even more, playing at five-eighth and ready to wreak havoc after sitting out last week's match. Munster has two appearances to his name this World Cup, already recording six try assists, just as many linebreak assists, six tackle busts and an average of 94 run metres per game. Shutting Munster down will be a challenge for Lebanon but one that is key to Saturday's result.
As for Lebanon, it has to be Mitchell Moses who stands up if it is any chance of causing a boilover. That is not a surprising revelation by any means but it is just a reflection of how much of a mismatch this game is, at least on paper. Having taken Parramatta to the grand final this year, Moses has the big-game experience that many of his other teammates lack and will need to command the ball. Moses already has four try assists, six linebreak assists and four tackle busts from his first three games in the tournament. If Lebanon is any hope of pulling off an upset it will all start with Moses' temperament and composure under pressure, particularly if the Cedars fall behind early.
The favourite: Australia is a clear favourite to breeze past Lebanon.
My tip: It won't be a complete cakewalk but Australia should still get the job done with relative ease. Kangaroos by 22.
1. James Tedesco 4. Valentine Holmes 10. Jack Wighton 8. Latrell Mitchell 9. Josh Addo-Carr 7. Cameron Munster 14. Nathan Cleary 5. Jake Trbojevic 20. Harry Grant 18. Tino Fa'asuamaleaui 17. Angus Crichton 21. Liam Martin 24. Isaah Yeo 2. Daly Cherry-Evans 13. Patrick Carrigan 11. Cameron Murray 15. Lindsay Collins 19. Campbell Graham
1. Jacob Kiraz 2. Josh Mansour 4. Brandon Morkos 16. Reece Robinson 5. Abbas Miski 6. Adam Doueihi 7. Mitchell Moses 13. James Roumanos 14. Anthony Layoun 19. Khalil Rahme 11. Elie El Zakhem 12. Charbel Tasipale 15. Andrew Kazzi 9. Mikey Tannous 18. Khaled Rajab 17. Jalal Bazzaz 20. Jaxson Rahme 3. Bilal Maarbani