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Meninga defends resting Cronk against NZ

NZN 4/11/2016 Ian McCullough

Australia coach Mal Meninga denies resting Cooper Cronk for Sunday's Four Nations showdown against New Zealand is a sign of complacency.

Cronk was surprisingly left out of the side to face the Kiwis at Coventry's Ricoh Arena with Michael Morgan to play in the halves alongside Johnathan Thurston.

But Meninga said he's more concerned with giving all of his squad ample game time on the five-week tour than any accusations of taking the Kiwis lightly.

"It's not about being disrespectful," Meninga said.

"We've got 24 great players who all deserve to play. It's about resting Coop. He's had a big year, played every game, played the grand final.

"It's more about respecting the players I have internally here. I've got 24 great players so we want to respect that more so than what do externally."

Skipper Cameron Smith, admits not having his long-time Queensland and Melbourne teammate in the side will be strange.

But said he had every faith in Morgan and James Maloney, who will share the playmaking duties.

"It will be strange, but we were given an indication back in Australia that everyone was going to get an opportunity and at some stage everybody was going to get a rest," Smith said.

"This week it's Cooper. It's going to be a little bit different the make up of the side, but we're still fielding a very strong side.

"Michael Morgan partners the Johnathan Thurston at the Cowboys and Jimmy Maloney has just won a grand final in the halves and both are playing great football."

Smith said the Kiwis would be foolish to think Australia are taking a win for granted, especially given the Kangaroos have lost three of their last four Four Nations matches against the world's No.1 ranked side.

"If I was New Zealand playing against the Kangaroos I would believe they are taking very seriously, because we are," he said.

"It's an important game for in the overall scheme of the tournament and we'll need to play well."

New Zealand coach David Kidwell said he had no interest in who lines up for the Australians and said Cronk's absence won't see any alterations to his game plan.

"We're just worried about us and what we need to do," Kidwell said.

"I don't know what's going on in their camp, all I know is what's going on in our camp. That is my focus."

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