Greg Inglis will relish a chance to play fullback in the absence of Billy Slater but he hopes the incumbent Kangaroos No.1 plays again at the World Cup.
Greg Inglis hopes Billy Slater will play again at the Rugby League World Cup but admits he’ll relish a switch to fullback in the Melbourne star’s absence.
Slater is set to sit out the semi-finals on Saturday and could miss the rest of the tournament after suffering a recurrence of a knee injury in the 62-0 quarter-final win over the United States on Saturday.
The irony of Slater’s injury is that it will force Kangaroos coach Sheens into switching Inglis from the centres to his favoured position and one in which many consider him the world’s best.
Inglis, 26, will eventually succeed 30-year-old Slater as Australia and Queensland’s first choice No.1 but he hopes the incumbent fullback will be able to return should the Kangaroos reach the World Cup final on November 30.
“In the end he is a valuable member to this team,” Inglis said of Slater.
“To see him go down like that was disappointing but hopefully we see the scans come back all clear.
“I would love to wear that number one (if Slater is out) but I am not the coach.
“A lot happens in a week so we will just have to wait and see.”
Inglis played at fullback in Australia’s 34-2 group stage win over Fiji when Slater was rested, in a move Sheens hoped would “spark” the South Sydney star and get him more involved.
It certainly worked as Inglis caused havoc in atrocious conditions, running for 206 metres.
After being rested against Ireland, Inglis was again hungry to be involved in Saturday’s win over the Tomahawks.
Playing at left centre he shifted to the right at times and was superb, scoring two tries – including one in which he dragged four defenders across the line – setting up two others and making a whopping 15 tackle breaks.
“The first game (against England) I was a bit quiet so I put it in my head that I had to touch the ball a bit more going back to the centres,” Inglis said.
Sheens has a plethora of options to cover for Slater, including Jarryd Hayne and Darius Boyd, but the coach confirmed Inglis would drop back.
That is set to open up a spot in the centres for either Michael Jennings, Josh Morris or Brent Tate, who were all overlooked against the US as Sheens somewhat surprisingly favoured playing Hayne out of position.
Hayne was at his brilliant best a right centre, scoring a record-equalling four tries, and is likely to remain there for the semi-finals, meaning specialist left-sides centres Jennings and Morris are the likely front-runners for a recall.
“I wanted to give Jarryd his chance like the other centres had and certainly he played well didn’t he?” Sheens said.
“If we do lose Billy obviously GI will move back to fullback so one of the three centres will be quite happy to jump in for that spot.
“But it’s another challenge because I’ve got three quality players there.”
Sheens was impressed by the contribution of Josh Papalii, who earned a spot on the bench ahead of Boyd Cordner, but the coach said he was still undecided as to which of the rookies was in his first-choice team.
Australia will play the winner of Sunday’s (Monday 0200AEDT) quarter-final between Fiji and Samoa in their semi-final at Wembley.