Australia v Scotland: Rugby League World Cup
COVENTRY, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 21: Nathan Cleary of Australia looks to pass during Rugby League World Cup 2021 Pool B match between Australia and Scotland at The Coventry Building Society Arena on October 21, 2022 in Coventry, England. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

After a pair of solid performances as the Kangaroos' chief playmaker in the World Cup finals, Nathan Cleary has candidly admitted he is yet to play at his best during his time in England.

The Penrith Panthers halfback was forced to fight for his place at the start of the tournament and was left to watch from the sidelines as Daly Cherry-Evans resumed as the incumbent in the opener against Fiji.

But since then coach Mal Meninga has kept Cleary in the side and looks set to stick with the 25-year-old again for Sunday morning's historic final against Samoa.

Knowing the jersey is currently his to lose, Cleary is focusing on performing at his peak at every opportunity.

“I haven't thought about external pressure,” Cleary told The Daily Telegraph.

“It's more internally, being able to get the best out of myself and push myself to do that. I feel like I do belong and feel like I've got a long way to go to play my best footy but I'm doing everything I can to prepare well and try and get my best game out this weekend.

“The last few games haven't been my best but I feel like I've been building.

"Coming into a new team it's pretty hard to gel straight away with new combinations, but I feel like we're building.

“Within a team like this you don't need to be the superstar every week - you can try and unlock other players and gel really well as a team.

“I am not thinking about the next 10 years. I'm never going to be owed the jersey, I've got to always earn it and that comes from each training session and each game, there's no better stage to do it than the World Cup final.

“I'm very narrow-minded, living in the present and living each day as it is and just trying to be a good team member. That's how you get the best out of yourself on game day.”

Now the two-time NRL premiership winner faces his biggest test as a Kangaroo, and only adding to the pressure and narrative is the fact his Penrith halves partner, Jarome Luai, is steering the ship for Samoa.

“It is exciting,” Cleary said on the challenge of facing Luai.

“We come up against each other a lot at training all the time. It is obviously different now it's a World Cup grand final.

“But we are both competitive so I am sure that will come out on the weekend. He is their star player, he has been killing it. We're going to have to do our homework on him.”

The World Cup final between Australia and Samoa kicks off at 3AM AEDT Sunday morning.