AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 13: Daly Cherry-Evans of Australia looks on with Damien Cook of Australia during the international Rugby League Test Match between the New Zealand Kiwis and the Australia Kangaroos at Mt Smart Stadium on October 13, 2018 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

New South Wales head coach Brad Fittler has declared Cameron Munster and James Tedesco the only certainties for the Kangaroos, with the Origin decider doubling as a World Cup audition.

Fittler is part of the four-man selection panel for Australia, alongside fellow Origin coach Billy Slater, Kangaroos head coach Mal Meninga, and the ARL commission chairman in Peter V'landys. Provided Munster and Tedesco are definite selections, it leaves as many as 15 spots up for grabs in their full-strength side.

Having not played a game since their late 2019 defeat to Tonga, the Australian international side that runs out this October will be vastly different to the side that took the field near three years, with several incumbents set to feel the heat.

Daly Cherry-Evans is on the verge of being superseded by Blues halfback Nathan Cleary, especially on the back of the Penrith captain's Game 2 performance in Perth.

Damien Cook is another looking over his shoulder, with Queensland's double-pronged dynamo in Harry Grant and Ben Hunt excelling in the rep arena together.

NSW v QLD - State of Origin Game 2
PERTH, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 26: Nathan Cleary of the Blues celebrates with teammates after scoring a try during game two of the State of Origin series between New South Wales Blues and QueenslandMaroons at Optus Stadium on June 26, 2022 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Not to mention, the side will be missing one of their key attacking weapons in Tom Trbojevic, who made his international debut in the 2017 World Cup, leaving the right centre spot up for grabs.

Adding into the selection headaches is the fact that a large portion of Origin stars will likely pledge allegiances to lower-tier nations, with Jarome Luai, Josh Papalii and potentially Junior Paulo likely to turn out for Samoa, while Brian To'o and Stephen Crichton continue to make their decision.

With so many quality players set to fight it out for a spot, Fittler knows how important the battle will be to secure a spot on the plane to England later this year.

“That’s what puts even more on the line, there are some spots up for grabs. That’s across the board, there wouldn’t be too many there that have got guarantees at the moment" Fittler told the Sydney Morning Herald.

"Cam Munster may be one of them, Teddy may be another. Other than that, everyone is fighting. That’s the dialogue, that’s the talk. That should be the talk.”

Only nine players from the last Kangaroos test team have played State of Origin football this year, with the likes of Paul Vaughan, Nick Cotric, Wade Graham and Tyson Frizell set to be overlooked for this year's tournament, the first World Cup in five years.

Meninga will announce the official squad shortly after this year's grand final, giving the players just over three months to announce themselves as a 'must pick', with the Kangaroos eyeing off a third consecutive World Cup victory.

POTENTIAL KANGAROOS 17

1. James Tedesco (c)
2. Brian To'o*
3. Latrell Mitchell
4. Jack Wighton
5. Valentine Holmes
6. Cameron Munster
7. Nathan Cleary^
8. Payne Haas
9. Ben Hunt
10. Tino Fa'asuamaleaui^
11. Cameron Murray
12. Felise Kaufusi
13. Isaah Yeo^

14. Harry Grant^
15. Jake Trbojevic
16. Angus Crichton^
17. Patrick Carrigan^

18. Damien Cook/Daly Cherry-Evans

* pending international allegiance
^ denotes Kangaroos' debut

1 COMMENT

  1. Freddie must e desperate for some self-publicity, making a fatuous remark like that.

    Inclusion in the Australian squad will be determined by performance during the rest of the season, performance during the finals series, self disqualification (electing to play for a tier 2 country in preference to Australia) and by freedom from serious injury (or otherwise).

    At the time the squad is selected, performance in SOO#3 will be little more than a blip in each selector’s memory.

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