Cleary and DCE will share play chief duties for the final selection shootout

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Nathan Cleary insists on his eagerness to dethrone Daly Cherry-Evans because the Kangaroos’ No. 1 halfback won’t have him looking for an advantage as the pair prepare to play together for the first time.

Australia manager Mal Meninga is expected to pick Cleary and Cherry-Evans side-by-side in the halves when he names his squad on Wednesday (6:00 p.m. AEDT) for the weekend’s World Cup clash with Italy.

The pair spent a lot of time in halves together as the Kangaroos were tested ahead of their final group match.

Five-eighth Cameron Munster and others who have featured in the Kangaroos’ opening two games are set to miss the game at St Helens, which kicks off at 5.30am on Sunday AEDT.

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Utility forward Reuben Cotter has indicated he is set to return after passing concussion protocols.

(Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

But the key plot will center around who will take over the Kangaroos as the on-field organizer.

Both are natural halfbacks and opponents at club and home state level, and Cleary said it would be a balance between him and Cherry-Evans as to who controls the team.

“We’re going to mix it up a bit,” Cleary said.

“We’ll just see how it goes and who has the flow at that time.

“Daly is so good that I can float around and work with him, it’s something new for both of us.

LEEDS, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 15: Daly Cherry-Evans of Australia is tackled by Siti Moceidreke and Viliame Kikau of Fiji during the Rugby World Cup 2021 Pool B match between Australia and Fiji at Headingley on 15 October 2022 in Leeds, England. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images for RLWC)

(Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images for RLWC)

“Actually, I’m not sure (who the halfback and five-eighth is). I wear No.14 and he wears No.2. The idea for us is that we want to work together as much as we can.

Cleary said he felt like he belonged in the Kangaroos setup after his debut against Scotland last week, in which he scored 28 points.

The game against Italy represents one of the last opportunities Meninga will have to consider his selections for the round of 16, with the half-back position being the most pressing.

Cherry-Evans made the board and is coming off a successful Origin series with Queensland.

Cleary arrived at the camp after the second of his consecutive premierships with Penrith.

And the Panthers point guard is aware that he cannot seek to take advantage of the Manly Cherry-Evans by deviating from the game plan.

“Nobody thinks: ‘I have to play well, because I want to be in the team’,” he said.

“You want to play well for the Kangaroos and do your best for the team.

“That’s the beauty of this team so far – there are no individuals or egos taking over trying to make themselves look better.

“It’s about improving the appearance of the team.”


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