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Kangaroos jersey a 'massive gift': Fifita

Cronulla forward Andrew Fifita says making his debut for Australia at the rugby league World Cup feels like a fitting reward for his stellar NRL season.
Kangaroos jersey a 'massive gift': Fifita
by AAP

By Julian Drape

CARDIFF, Oct 23 AAP - Cronulla forward Andrew Fifita says making his debut for Australia at the rugby league World Cup feels like a fitting reward for his stellar NRL season.

Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens has announced his team for the tournament-opening clash with England in Cardiff on Saturday, with Fifita named on an extended bench and set to earn his first international cap.

Sheens' team featured a couple of minor surprises with St George Illawarra's Brett Morris named on the wing ahead of Jarryd Hayne, who is on the six-man bench.

Veteran Brent Tate caps a remarkable comeback from countless injuries after beating out Michael Jennings and Josh Morris to line up in the centres alongside Greg Inglis.

Rising prop Fifita, who was outstanding for his NRL club Cronulla this season and earned a State of Origin call up for NSW, says he's "stoked, surprised and very happy".

"It just tops off the year that I've had to represent my country," he told AAP.

"Like they say you do your job at club footy, and you do your job at Origin level, and I've been rewarded with this massive gift to represent my country.

"I can't wait to get out there."

Two years ago then-Wests Tigers mentor Sheens deemed Fifita surplus to requirements at the NRL club.

The youngster joined the Sharks and has since developed into one of the most feared forwards in the game.

Fifita insisted there's no hard feelings between himself and the Kangaroos coach, however.

"There was no `get out of my club you've got to go', it was more on good terms," he said before the Kangaroos' first training session at Cardiff.

"It was just that they couldn't fit me in their salary cap."

He said to be coached by Sheens again was "awesome".

"I know what he's like, what he wants and what he expects."

Tate made his international debut against Great Britain back in 2002 but ever since has been plagued by injuries.

In 2010 he feared his representative days were over when struck down by the third serious knee injury of his career in the Four Nations final.

"Obviously I'm stoked to be here," Tate told AAP on Wednesday.

"It has been a long, tough journey. But I'm back here now ... and I also understand that the challenge now is to keep that jersey and stay in this team."

England have suffered a series of setbacks ahead of Saturday's clash.

The co-hosts lost a practice match to Italy and this week dispatched forward Gareth Hock after he reportedly failed to turn up for the squad's camp in Loughborough.

Australian team:

Billy Slater, Brett Morris, Brent Tate, Greg Inglis, Darius Boyd, Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk, Matthew Scott, Cameron Smith (capt), James Tamou, Greg Bird, Sam Thaiday, Paul Gallen (vc). Interchange: Robbie Farah, Andrew Fifita, Luke Lewis, Corey Parker, Jarryd Hayne, Nate Myles. (two to be omitted)


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