World Cup: Mal Meninga names his Australia team to face England

Mal Meninga: Has handed out three new caps.

Australia coach Mal Meninga will give debuts to three players against England in Friday’s World Cup opener at AAMI Park.

Winger Dane Gagai, who is moving from Newcastle to South Sydney for 2018, and interchange forwards Wade Graham and Jordan McLean are the new faces while Meninga has opted to play North Queensland utility man Michael Morgan in place of injured Cowboys team-mate Johnathan Thurston.

Morgan got the nod ahead of Cameron Munster and James Maloney to partner Cooper Cronk.

Gagai, who made history this year by becoming the first winger to be named man-of-the-match in a State of Origin Series, takes over from Blake Ferguson, who played in the 2016 Four Nations Series and the ANZAC Test in May.

“Dane had a tremendous State of Origin series and deserves to play for the Kangaroos and it will be great to see him in the green and gold,” said Meninga.

Gagai said he was told earlier in the week about his call-up at a team meeting but was sworn to secrecy. He said: “It’s obviously a great honour and privilege to get the call-up to represent the green and gold. It got announced the other day and it was a pretty surreal moment”

Australia: B Slater (Melbourne); D Gagai (Newcastle), W Chambers (Melbourne), J Dugan (St George Illawarra), V Holmes (Cronulla); M Morgan (North Queensland), C Cronk (Melbourne); A Woods (Wests Tigers), C Smith (Melbourne, capt), D Klemmer (Canterbury Bulldogs), B Cordner (Sydney Roosters), M Gillett (Brisbane), J Trbojevic (Manly). Interchange (from): W Graham (Cronulla), J McLean (Melbourne), J McGuire (Brisbane), T Frizell (St George Illawarra), R Campbell-Gillard (Penrith), B Hunt (Brisbane), T Trbojevic (Manly), F Kaufusi (Melbourne).

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