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Aussie big guns to return for Kiwis clash

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 3/11/2016 Ian McCullough

Australia coach Mal Meninga has named an extended 19-man squad for the crucial Four Nations clash against New Zealand in Coventry.

Meninga will make several changes to the side that beat Scotland, with Queensland big guns Johnathan Thurston, Greg Inglis, Darius Boyd and Matt Scott all recalled after being rested for the 54-12 win at Hull.

Back-rowers Matt Gillett and Boyd Cordner also return along with Cronulla winger Valentine Holmes, with the 17-man line-up likely to be confirmed late on Friday night.

However, St George Illawarra pair Tyson Frizell and Josh Dugan and Manly young gun Jake Trbojevic are omitted along with Cooper Cronk, who, as expected, will be kept fresh for the England match in London next week.

North Queensland's Michael Morgan is likely to get the nod over James Maloney to partner his Cowboys teammate Thurston in the halves for Saturday's match (Sunday 9am NZT).

"We know the Kiwis will be a significant challenge for us so it will be great to welcome back some of the players who missed the Scotland game," Meninga said.

"Having said that it is still important to try out a few combinations and I am looking forward to seeing what this squad can do against the Kiwis."

Josh Mansour's serious knee injury has cast a shadow over preparations for the game at the Ricoh Arena.

The Penrith winger was in line to be picked on the wing after impressing Meninga against Scotland but will fly home for surgery to repair the ruptured anterior cruciate ligament injury he sustained in training on Thursday.

Holmes, was impressive on debut against the Kiwis last month and Meninga is excited about unleashing the Sharks flyer against the side he tormented in Perth.

"Valentine Holmes' debut was fantastic," Meninga told AAP.

"He brings a new dimension to the position. He's got speed, he's a great competitor playing outside Greg Inglis.

"He's had a great year with his club and is someone you can't leave out."

Meninga has a 100 per cent record from the three matches he's been in charge of since replacing Tim Sheens in late 2015.

Taking on the role meant he had to reluctantly walk away from the Queensland job following a decade-long run of success.

He admits not being involved with the side for the first time since 2005 was harder than he expected but he's been relishing the chance to lead Australia back to the No.1 team in the world - a position currently held by the Kiwis.

"I missed it, and I missed it because I love being around the players," he said.

"It makes you young again and it's a great position to be in when you're coaching a representative side whether it be Queensland or Australia.

"To be able to tour with players, manage them and coach them hopefully to success. It's a privilege to be involved."

Likely team: Darius Boyd, Valentine Holmes, Greg Inglis, Julian O'Neill, Blake Ferguson, Johnathan Thurston, Michael Morgan, Matt Scott, Cameron Smith (capt), Aaron Woods, Boyd Cordner, Matt Gillett, Trent Merrin. Interchange from: David Klemmer, Shannon Boyd, Sam Thaiday, Matt Moylan, James Maloney, Jake Friend (two to be omitted).

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