Meninga responds as legends lash out at Roos

 

Australian coach Mal Meninga has staunchly defended his Kangaroos side after legends of the game Brad Fittler and Andrew Johns hitout at the team following their lacklustre performance against Tonga.

Meninga said it was execution not effort which led to his side's shock 16-12 loss to Tonga in Auckland on Saturday night.

"I'm glad Freddy and Joey are emotional about it," Meninga said of Fittler and Johns.

"Maybe in the light of day they might not have said what they said. They got emotional. It's good to see the green and gold is important to them.

"It's an emotional comment. They are entitled to those comments. We are bitterly disappointed with the result but not with the effort - just the way we executed. We weren't composed enough.

"The team is hurting."

 

Mel Meninga has defended his side after the shock loss to Tonga. Picture: AAP
Mel Meninga has defended his side after the shock loss to Tonga. Picture: AAP

 

Meninga won his first 13 Tests after taking charge in 2016. Australia have now lost two of their past four matches.

"Anytime the Aussies get beaten it's good for the game," Meninga said.

"That's what we live with. Everybody likes to see the Aussies get beaten other than those passionate about it like Freddy and Joey. Every time we play we are expected to win. It's a burden we've had to carry for 40 odds year now."

Blues coach Fittler let rip at the Kangaroos calling on Meninga to make changes. This was despite NSW players dominating the Australian line-up with 13 of the 17 to take the field having been of the Blues' successful Origin series win this year.

Fittler questioned Daly Cherry-Evans and Latrell Mitchell - who he dropped after Origin I - in particular and called on Meninga to make changes to his line-up.

 

Daly Cherry-Evans came in for criticism following Australia’s defeat to Tonga. Picture: AAP
Daly Cherry-Evans came in for criticism following Australia’s defeat to Tonga. Picture: AAP

 

Australia won't play again until a Kangaroos tour of Great Britain next year with Meninga declaring he wanted to keep faith with his young squad.

"They are the best players in the game apart from a few who couldn't play because of injury," Meninga said.

"I'm keen to keep this group together. I'm not naive to suggest we should change the footy team. We have a good, solid unit who are prepared to put their bodies on the line.

"I'll be loyal. I know they will come back better players and understand what Test footy is about."

Johns indicated the Kangaroos had lacked respect for the tier-two Tongan side and needed to take a 'good hard look' at themselves.

Meninga said Australia's emphatic 26-4 victory to the Kiwis just a week before indicate to him the Kangaroos were on the right path.

"The week before, we had plaudits and congratulations and everyone telling us how good we play," Meninga said.

"A week later with the same footy team, the world is going to end."