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Roos and Cowboys sweat on Thurston fitness

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 25/04/2017 Laine Clark

Australian selectors have their fingers crossed Johnathan Thurston will be fit to play New Zealand after North Queensland claimed they wouldn't rush the playmaker back from injury "just so he can play a Test match".

Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga has been sweating on Thurston to overcome a two-week calf complaint before unveiling the national team on Wednesday for their May 5 trans-Tasman Test in Canberra.

And he appeared to get good news when Thurston was named by the Cowboys for Friday night's NRL clash with Parramatta - albeit as 18th man.

North Queensland coach Paul Green made it clear on Tuesday that Thurston should be not be considered for the Test against the Kiwis if he is not passed fit for the Eels clash.

"We've said all along if he is not fit to play for us than he wouldn't probably be playing in that Test match," Green said.

"We won't rush him back just so he can play a Test match.

"We've got a lot of games to play yet this season for us, so we are not going to take any unnecessary risks."

Meninga will liaise closely with Australian and Cowboys doctor Chris Ball on Thurston's availability before the official Kangaroos team announcement in Sydney.

Green said Thurston had begun running but had not yet featured in a Cowboys training session since his injury return.

"JT is a determined bloke, but it's not about how determined he is. It's about how fit he is," Green said of the likelihood of a Thurston comeback.

"He needs to convince us that he is fully fit before we consider him."

Cronulla star James Maloney is on standby for Thurston, with Meninga tipped to keep Cowboys half Michael Morgan on the interchange bench.

Meninga will show faith in his incumbents but will use NRL form to replace the only players officially unavailable from Australia's last start win over New Zealand in the 2016 Four Nations final - Matt Scott and Greg Inglis (both knee).

Cronulla star Andrew Fifita may receive a representative reprieve to replace Scott and slot in to the front row, with incumbent prop Aaron Woods, after his Four Nations snub.

Fifita starred in Cronulla's 2016 NRL grand final win but was overlooked for Meninga's triumphant end of season trip because of the NRL integrity unit's investigation in to his off field issues.

However, Meninga confirmed Fifita had started the year with a clean slate.

"He's paid his penance and paid his dues. He's in the clear now," Meninga told ABC Grandstand on the weekend.

Canterbury's David Klemmer and Canberra giant Shannon Boyd are other front row contenders.

Brisbane's Sam Thaiday is expected to feature on the Kangaroos bench after missing the Four Nations final with a fractured eye socket.

Will Chambers is tipped to replace Inglis at centre, holding out Canberra's Jarrod Croker and North Queensland's Justin O'Neill.

Possible Kangaroos line-up: Darius Boyd, Blake Ferguson, Will Chambers, Josh Dugan, Valentine Holmes, Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk, Aaron Woods, Cameron Smith (capt), Andrew Fifita, Boyd Cordner, Matt Gillett, Trent Merrin. Interchange: Michael Morgan, Sam Thaiday, David Klemmer, Shannon Boyd.

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