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Meninga undecided on Australia bench utility

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6th October, 2018
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Australian coach Mal Meninga is considering playing with a four-forward bench rotations for the Kangaroos’ upcoming Tests against New Zealand and Tonga.

Australian coach Mal Meninga is considering deploying a four-forward bench rotation to counter the might of powerhouses New Zealand and Tonga over the next fortnight.

The make-up of the Kangaroos’ side remains a mystery after utility options Ben Hunt and Tyrone Peachey both put their best foot forward in the Prime Minister’s XIII’s 34-18 win over Papua New Guinea on Saturday.

Both the Kiwis and Mate Ma’a are expected to field monster packs and Meninga was toying with the idea of running four forwards off the bench.

South Sydney and NSW rake Damien Cook is guaranteed to start in the No.9 jersey however it remains to be seen if he will be given a breather at some point.

“We know Damien can play 80. So if he can get through 80 minutes fit and healthy then that’s good for the side,” Meninga said.

“He may benefit from a little break, using his speed and his abilities.”

During last year’s World Cup, Meninga used versatile Cronulla back-rower Wade Graham off the bench as a fourth forward but he was chosen because of his ability to slot into the backline in case of injury.

However, with Graham suffering a season-ending knee injury, Meninga was exploring a different ploy for the Kangaroos’ end of year Tests.

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St George Illawarra playmaker Hunt started at No.9 against the Kumuls in Port Moresby on Saturday and gave them punch out of dummy-half and proved himself capable of defending the in the middle.

While Peachey, who was used off the bench by NSW coach Brad Fittler this year, did his chances of a Test debut no harm by playing a hand in Jake Trbojevic’s first-half try.

“I thought (Hunt) was great, especially off the back of momentum early in the piece,” Meninga said.

“He’s a quality player. I thought he defended really well and I thought Peach was pretty good too. 

“We’re playing against big sides so do we pick a side to match their size or do we pick a side that’s got good speed, good footwork and can take advantage of that lateral speed?”