Mal Meninga has named six debutants as part of the Australian Prime Minister’s XIII to take on Papua New Guinea Prime Minister’s XIII in Port Moresby on Saturday 23 September.
Valentine Holmes, Andrew Fifita, Api Koroisau, Dylan Walker, Jack Bird and Paul Vaughan will take their place in the team travelling to PNG next week, with the match to be played at the National Football Stadium in the nation’s capital.
A further six players in the squad represented the Kangaroos in the ANZAC Test match earlier this year, with Tom Trbojevic the only player yet to have played a representative match at senior level.
With a little more than a month to go until the Rugby League World Cup, Meninga said the annual invitational match would be used as a genuine selection trial for players pushing for spots in the Kangaroos’ World Cup squad.
“I’m absolutely delighted with this team. We’ve chosen the best available players in each position with fifteen of the eighteen players having represented their State already,” Meninga said.
“To get these guys together so close to the Rugby League World Cup is a real coup for our preparations, which will really kick into gear following the NRL Grand Final.
“Some of them have been fortunate enough to have already experienced playing in PNG, but for the new guys, it really is something to cherish. There’s nothing else quite like it.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how everyone gels together in a short timeframe and handles the occasion.”
Meninga also confirmed Wests Tigers captain Aaron Woods would skipper the Prime Minister’s XIII.
“Aaron has been a fantastic leader at Club and State level for a number of years now and has fully earned this honour,” Meninga said.
“I’m looking forward to seeing him lead from the front on Saturday week against an always tough, physical and entertaining Papua New Guinea Prime Minister’s XIII team.”
The Prime Minister’s XIII will also be involved in a series of events alongside the Harvey Norman Jillaroos including community visits and coaching clinics while on the ground in Papua New Guinea and are supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
Australian Prime Minister’s XIII Squad
Jack Bird (Cronulla Sharks)*
Josh Dugan (St George Illawarra Dragons)
Andrew Fifita (Cronulla Sharks)*
Tyson Frizell (St George Illawarra Dragons)
Dane Gagai (Newcastle Knights)
Wade Graham (Cronulla Sharks)
Valentine Holmes (Cronulla Sharks)*
Josh Jackson (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)
David Klemmer (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)
Api Koroisau (Manly Sea Eagles)*
James Maloney (Cronulla Sharks)
Josh Papalii (Canberra Raiders)
James Tedesco (Wests Tigers)
Jake Trbojevic (Manly Sea Eagles)
Tom Trbojevic (Manly Sea Eagles)
Paul Vaughan (St George Illawarra Dragons)*
Dylan Walker (Manly Sea Eagles)*
Aaron Woods (c) (Wests Tigers)
*Denotes PMXIII debut
Coach: Mal Meninga