Kangaroos head coach Mal Meninga has warned fans of how close the opening round of the 2022 Rugby League World Cup will be, after stating that Australia will head into the end-of-season tournament 'under prepared'.
It was never going to be smooth sailing for the Kangaroos, who have played just four games since the 2017 RLWC Final, however Meninga believes the country will be up against it in the first week, and they won't be the only ones in that boat.
Australia take on Fiji in their opening contest, who will most likely go into the competition underrated following their loss to Papua New Guinea last weekend. However, the addition of Api Koroisau as well as a sprinkle of players currently in the Super League will boost their squad, leaving them a potential threat.
England could be even more dire, facing off against a red-hot Samoa outfit that will add Origin stars Jarome Luai, Junior Paulo, Josh Papalii and possibly more to the line-up that walloped the Cook Islands in rep round.
While Meninga would be ecstatic to have Blues five-eighth Luai lining up in the green and gold, he knows he's blessed with the options in his court.
"I would love Jarome to play for Australia but, if he wants to play for Samoa, that's great. It's great for Samoa and it's great for the international game. I'll pick Cameron Munster or Jack Wighton or young Matt Burton or someone like that" Meninga told the Canberra Times.
"Then we've got the length of the tour, we've got six weeks hopefully so a bit of time to work on combinations. Coming into the first game after the grand final is going to be difficult because we're assuming that most of the players will have played on grand final day, only 12 days beforehand."
The Kangaroos are raging favourites to take out the tournament, as a host of selection battles will be decided in the third Origin game, though don't expect Meninga to announce a finalised squad until the days following this year's NRL Grand Final.