Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens says Raider Blake Ferguson has an ”eight-week” audition for a World Cup role, starting with a clash against one of the favourites to fill the job vacated by Justin Hodges’ season-ending Achilles injury.
The Raiders face the Bulldogs at Canberra Stadium on Saturday, and Canterbury centre Josh Morris is one of the leading contenders to take Hodges’ spot.
While Sheens said it was too soon to comment on who would replace the veteran Queenslander in the Kangaroos line-up, he did say form over the final rounds of the NRL home-and-away season, along with finals, would be the deciding factor in who would partner Greg Inglis in the centres. The ninth-placed Raiders have four games left to qualify for the finals.
Morris and Sydney Rooster Michael Jennings appear to be the frontrunners to fill Hodges’ boots. But Ferguson made a stunning return from a six-week alcohol-related lay-off to score two tries in the Raiders’ loss to the Roosters at the weekend. Sheens will be looking to see whether the Raiders’ centre can continue that form for the rest of the year.
”I don’t want to comment yet on who could come in, but any player playing well is eligible,” he told Fairfax Media on Monday.
”The form over the remaining four rounds and then finals, the next four to eight weeks, will be the decisive factor in who plays in the World Cup.”
The Kangaroos coach said there were plenty of options for the World Cup in England and Wales in October and November. ”Both Morris and Jennings are both playing well at the moment,” Sheens said. ”There are plenty of options at centre, including [the Cowboys’] Brent Tate as well.”
Raiders centre Jarrod Croker had no doubt Ferguson could take his game to Test level.
”I think Fergo’s definitely ready [to play for Australia], he’s only one game back and we saw what he was like,” Croker said.
”But I don’t think anyone’s thinking about that at the moment, we’re just worried about the next week and the game coming ahead. But I’ve got no doubt if Fergo was given that jersey he’d be fine.”
Raiders coach David Furner said while Ferguson was fantastic at the weekend, Canberra players would have a better chance of earning national duty if the team made the finals.
”If he carries on with that form [then he’s a chance], but as a team we’ve got to strive to get into the semi-finals and that gives you the best chance as an individual to get into a representative side at the end of the year,” Furner said.
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