Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens reckons Kiwis forward Jason Taumalolo would make his team in a heartbeat.
Bullocking New Zealand forward Jason Taumalolo has been identified as the man to most likely test Australia’s green forward pack at the Four Nations.
Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens hailed the resurgent NRL form of Taumalolo for North Queensland this season, wondering what might have been if the 21-year-old had followed through with a reported pledge to play for Queensland and Australia two years ago.
He says the world champions would snap up the Auckland-raised Taumalolo if they could but the former Junior Kiwi had committed himself to New Zealand for the Four Nations tournament.
“If he was an Australian he’d be picked in our side. I don’t know if that’s a recommendation or not,” Sheens said.
“He’s a damaging player with great go-forward so that’s going to test Australia up the middle, which is where I’m concerned we’re going to have to plug holes with so many guys out.”
A swag of injuries will force Sheens to field a raw team in the tournament which begins when they face New Zealand in Brisbane on October 25, followed by England against Samoa at the same venue that night.
Sheens says the Kiwis have the advantage of their remaining games all being played in New Zealand, including the final in Wellington on November 15 if they get that far.
However, his concerns stretch to England where he expects James Graham to be at the helm of a brutal forward assault.
“The Kiwis have got a lot of front-row options who have been in very good form but the English, if anything, are better again,” he said.
“Sam (Burgess) will be missed but Graham and the other two Burgess boys (George and Tom) will be a very formidable combination, fit and ready to go.”
The Kangaroos’ injury crisis worsened on Wednesday with star playmaker Johnathan Thurston ruled out of the Four Nations with a shoulder problem, the type of injury which Sheens says is responsible for 80 per cent of his unavailable players.