Mal Meninga has not thrown any curveballs at Samoa after naming an unchanged 19-man squad he believes can secure Australia a third-straight World Cup title.
Meninga will persist with the halves combination of Nathan Cleary and Cameron Munster for Saturday’s (Sunday AEDT) final at Old Trafford after they steered Australia to an 18-16 win over New Zealand.
The Manly captain Daly Cherry-Evans, who is the sole survivor from the 2013 final win at the same venue, has to make do with a spot in the extended squad.
The selection pits Cleary against his good friend Jarome Luai, as well as several other players he won a premiership alongside at Penrith, who will feature for the Samoans. Prop Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, who represented Samoa in 2019, will start on the interchange bench for Australia.
The starting prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard and winger Valentine Holmes are the only players to remain from the side which won the trophy in 2017 but despite their inexperience, Australia head into the final full of confidence.
The Kangaroos have won all six Tests they have played at the stadium and Meninga has the chance to join Bob Fulton in winning a second World Cup as Australia coach.
“I’m very happy with the attitude and performance of all 24 players throughout the World Cup but keeping the same team for the final is a bonus,” Meninga said. “We are all very well aware that our goal hasn’t been achieved yet and fully realise we are on the cusp of something very few players have had the opportunity to do.”
Meanwhile, World Cup officials have opted against using a neutral referee for the second-straight final. Australian Ashley Klein will oversee this weekend’s decider. He was the referee for all three State of Origin games and the NRL grand final this year.
The veteran official has previously taken charge of a World Cup final, drawing the ire of then-Australia coach Ricky Stuart following their 2008 defeat to New Zealand.
Australia squad to face Samoa: Josh Addo-Carr, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Patrick Carrigan, Daly Cherry-Evans, Nathan Cleary, Reuben Cotter, Angus Crichton, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Harry Grant, Valentine Holmes, Ben Hunt, Liam Martin, Latrell Mitchell, Cameron Munster, Cameron Murray, James Tedesco, Jake Trbojevic, Jack Wighton, Isaah Yeo.