Rampaging Roo declared fit for clash with Kiwis
AUSTRALIA star Josh Papalii will play through pain as the Kangaroos aim for Test redemption against arch-rivals New Zealand in Wollongong on Friday night.
The Canberra prop has been battling rib and chest injuries from the NRL grand final, but has been declared fit to take on the Kiwis in the Test at WIN Stadium.
A veteran of nine Tests for Australia, Papalii's inclusion is a huge boost for the Kangaroos ahead of Friday's showdown.
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"He's a relentless front-rower who's never going to stop going forward both with his defence and his attack," said vice captain Daly Cherry-Evans.
"He's not the sort of person to take a backwards step to anyone and at this level that's certainly something you want in your front-rowers."
The 27-year-old was devastating for the Raiders this season, averaging 138 metres per game and clocking up 49 tackle breaks and 30 offloads to help them to their first NRL grand final in 25 years.
South Sydney forward Cameron Murray will remain on standby as 18th man.
The news of Papalii's inclusion will come as a blow to the Kiwis, who will be without barnstorming front-rower Nelson Asofa-Solomona, lock Isaac Liu and second-rower Joseph Tapine.
Coach Michael Maguire has bolstered his pack with debutants Corey Harawira-Naerea, Zane Tetevano and Braden Hamlin-Uele, with front-row pair Jared Waerea- Hargreaves and Leeson Ah Mau named to start.
However, experience will be lacking for the Kiwis in the pack as they aim for back-to-back victories over the Kangaroos for just the fifth time in history.
The Kiwis stunned the Kangaroos with a 26-24 win at Mt Smart Stadium in October last year, where Australia debuted eight players - the most since 2003.
"I'm very competitive, I don't like losing, let alone at a representative level, it does burn a little bit more," Cherry-Evans said of last year's loss.
"We won't be underestimating the Kiwis, not that I felt as though we did that last year, they were just too good last year, but this year I think we're on high alert.
"We're nice and focused on what we've got to do and how we want to play and we've got to make sure our attitude is right and we understand that we're playing for Australia and there's an expectation there of being winners."
This year the Kangaroos have five debutants in the team, including Josh Addo- Carr, Payne Haas, Nick Cotric, Jack Wighton and Paul Vaughan.
STATS THAT MATTER (courtesy of Fox Sports Lab)
* Australia has won 47 of 54 Tests since the beginning of 2007 including 14 of the past 15 games.
* The Kangaroos' loss to New Zealand at Mt Smart Stadium last year was their first since 2015 when they lost to the Kiwis at Suncorp Stadium.
* Australia's team has played a total of 94 Tests for the Kangaroos, which is the fewest since 2003. New Zealand's 17-man squad has amassed 186 Tests for the Kiwis.