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Kangaroos to make final call on Thurston

NZN 26/04/2017 Matt Encarnacion

Johnathan Thurston could still play for the Kangaroos even if is he ruled out of North Queensland's NRL clash against Parramatta on Friday, according to Australia coach Mal Meninga.

Thurston was on Wednesday named in a 20-man Kangaroos squad to meet New Zealand on Friday week, despite missing the past two games for the Cowboys with a calf injury.

Will Chambers and Aaron Woods fill in for injured duo Greg Inglis and Matt Scott, while in the only unforced change, Josh Papalii replaces Canberra clubmate Shannon Boyd in the 17.

Thurston is no certainty to play against the Eels this week despite being included in an extended Cowboys squad; while James Maloney is on standby for the Test.

Coincidentally, the Kangaroos medical staff are also on the books at North Queensland.

"(Thurston) doesn't have to play that game on the weekend. He's a pretty experienced player," Meninga said on Wednesday.

"Knowing John, he'll want to play in the Test match, if fully fit.

"He'll come in to camp and through our protocols, he'll go through a medical and we'll make some decisions around him on the Sunday.

"It's one of the reasons James Maloney is named as 19th man as well, just in case."

Meninga says because of the five-day preparation for the Test match, it was important to remain loyal to the team that defeated the Kiwis in the Four Nations final last year.

The Kangaroos will have just two training sessions during the week.

"Not only do these players have established combinations with each other, but they are also well aware of our values," Meninga said.

Trent Merrin and Michael Morgan, in particular, were under pressure to retain their spots after average starts to the season at club level.

However, Meninga backed the pair to produce against the Kiwis at GIO Stadium.

"Trent's playing in a team that's struggling at the moment," Meninga said.

"I still think he's trying hard, he's working hard for the team, his efforts with ball and defence is pretty good,

"Hopefully (Thurston is) back playing on Friday and then obviously that helps Michael as well.

"Their form I don't think really matters.

"They come back in to an environment where they're comfortable, happy playing with some terrific players, and that'll affect them in a positive way.

Captain Cameron Smith will become just the second player to reach 50 Tests for Australia - behind only Darren Lockyer, who made 59 appearances.

Australia: Darius Boyd, Blake Ferguson, Josh Dugan, Will Chambers, Valentine Holmes, Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk, Aaron Woods, Cameron Smith (capt), David Klemmer, Boyd Cordner, Matt Gillett, Trent Merrin. Reserves: Michael Morgan, Josh Papalii, Tyson Frizell, Sam Thaiday. Shannon Boyd (18th man), James Maloney (19th man), Justin O'Neill (20th man).

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