Mal Meninga has named five Sharks and 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, Jack Bird, James Maloney and Wade Graham, as well as debutants Api Koroisau, Dylan Walker 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.
Along with Holmes, a further five 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 15 of the 18 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:
1. James Tedesco (Wests Tigers)
2. Dane Gagai (Newcastle Knights)
3. Josh Dugan (St George-Illawarra Dragons)
4. Tom Trbojevic (Manly Warringah Sea Eagles)
5. Valentine Holmes (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks)*
6. Jack Bird (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks)*
7. James Maloney (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks)
8. Aaron Woods © (Wests Tigers)
9. Api Koroisau (Manly Warringah Sea Eagles)*
10. Andrew Fifita (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks)*
11. Tyson Frizell (St George-Illawarra Dragons)
12. Josh Papalii (Canberra Raiders)
13. Jake Trbojevic (Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles)
14. Wade Graham (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks)
15. David Klemmer (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)
16. Dylan Walker (Manly Warringah Sea Eagles)*
17. Josh Jackson (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)
18. Paul Vaughan (St George-Illawarra Dragons)*
Coach: Mal Meninga
*Denotes PMXIII debut