Kangaroos five-eighth Cameron Munster says he never considered missing last weekend's Pacific Championships Test against New Zealand due to fears he wouldn't get his spot back off Kangaroos teammate, Nicho Hynes. Australia's No.6 battled the flu in the build up to the match in Melbourne but played a key role in the Kangaroos' resounding 36-18 win at AAMI Park.
The Aussies will take on the Kiwis again on Saturday in the final of the Pacific Championships series in Hamilton. Speaking ahead of the final, Storm playmaker Munster admitted selfish reasons were behind his determination to play in last week's victory, with Hynes impressing coach Mal Meninga in Kangaroos camp and starring in a cameo off the bench against New Zealand in what was his debut Test appearance.
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Munster was given an early mark in the final 10 minutes against the Kiwis, with Hynes slotting in superbly into the five-eighth role. The Cronulla half was previously deployed by Meninga off the bench in a roving lock role, with NRL great Michael Ennis among those praising the versatility of Hynes and calling for his inclusion in Saturday's final.
Having rung in a number of changes for last week's Test, Meninga has ultimately reverted back to his first-choice squad for Saturday's final, with Hynes going back to 18th man. Munster - who was isolated from his teammates and only had one main hit-out at training as he battled the flu - says he feared he wouldn't get his spot back off Hynes in the halves if he hadn't played against the Kiwis.
“It was always tough being sick, but if I gave the jersey up to Nicho then I probably wouldn’t get it back,” Munster said. “Mal (Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga) is all about loyalty, so if we keep winning then he won’t change the team.
“For me, I just needed to make sure I got out there. I’m not giving anyone the opportunity to get my jersey, that’s for sure.” Munster was carrying a persistent knee injury throughout the NRL finals and came into the Kangaroos Test series under an injury cloud, but said he was feeling good after a short break and thrilled to be donning the national colours again.
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“It’s a pretty long season, but in saying that, as a kid you always wanted to play for Queensland – me being from Queensland – and you always wanted to play for your country,” he said. “You can forget about all the battle wounds you’ve got and all the sore niggles you have.
"With the kind of names we’ve got in our team, it makes our jobs a lot easier in certain positions. When I’ve got ‘Hammer’, Cam Murray and Dylan Edwards outside me, I’m just happy to be in the team.”
With the rested Payne Haas, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui and Liam Martin all coming back into the side for Saturday's final, Reuben Cotter has reverted to the bench and forced Hynes out of Meninga's 17. The Kangaroos will go into the decider as strong favourites, having won three straight Tests against the Kiwis - their last loss coming in 2018 in New Zealand.
“We can’t sit on our laurels and think that’s going to happen the same in New Zealand,” Munster added. “We‘re in their territory now and obviously (last week) was a little hiccup for them. We are expecting a lot better Kiwis team this weekend, that’s for sure. We played some good footy but we need to improve if we want to win this final.”
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