Cowboys star Johnathan Thurston is helped from the field after getting injured.
Cowboys star Johnathan Thurston is helped from the field after getting injured. MICHAEL CHAMBERS

Kangaroos sweating on Thurston's fitness

THE Kangaroos are holding out hope veteran playmaker Johnathan Thurston will overcome a calf injury and be named to take on the Kiwis on May 5.

While Canterbury fans may get an early glimpse of their new front-row combination with David Klemmer in the running to start upfront alongside club teammate-in-waiting Aaron Woods, Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga is loathe to make any changes to the side that beat New Zealand in the Four-Nations final last year, with the side given just two training sessions to prepare to play in Canberra.

Kangaroos officials are holding out hope Thurston will be named for the Cowboys on Tuesday and will play in their clash against the Eels on Friday night. The Australian team will be announced on Wednesday. Meninga will be guided by Thurston and Australian and Cowboys team doctor Chris Ball on his star's availability.

If Thurston is ruled out, James Maloney will start alongside Cooper Cronk in the halves after a strong showing during his first Test appearances last year.

Meninga needs to replace the injured Greg Inglis and Matt Scott. Justin O'Neill, who toured with Australia last year, is locked in a battle with Will Chambers and Jarrod Croker for Inglis's centre spot.

It is understood Chambers has the inside running after a disappointing return from injury for O'Neill last week.

Meanwhile, interchange players Klemmer and Shannon Boyd are in line to partner Woods at prop. Sam Thaiday, who missed last year's final with a fractured eye socket, is expected to return to the side on the interchange bench.

Meanwhile, England coach Wayne Bennett is on the verge of selecting former Queensland Origin back-rower Chris McQueen. McQueen, who played the last of his six Origin matches in 2014, is set to play for England against Samoa on May 6.

Likely Kangaroos side: Darius Boyd, Valentine Holmes, Josh Dugan, Will Chambers/Justin O'Neill, Blake Ferguson, Johnathan Thurston/James Maloney, Cooper Cronk, Aaron Woods, Cameron Smith, David Klemmer/Shannon Boyd, Matt Gillett, Boyd Cordner, Trent Merrin. Interchange: Klemmer/Boyd, Sam Thaiday, Michael Morgan, Tyson Frizell.

News Corp Australia

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