Boyd Cordner is set for his first Four Nations start after back-rower Beau Scott was ruled out of their crucial clash with Samoa with a hamstring injury.
Scott was an early casualty in their controversial 16-12 win over England at AAMI Park, with Sydney Roosters star Cordner his replacement in the bruising affair.
That looks like it will last at least another match with scans on Scott’s hamstring in Melbourne today revealing a low-grade tear.
Scott isn’t available for their match at Wollongong’s WIN Stadium on Sunday but will remain with the team and in contention for the November 15 final in Wellington, should the Aussies make it.
Scott has started in both of Australia’s matches, while Cordner wasn’t in the squad for their opening loss to New Zealand.
The Kangaroos came from behind to snatch the win over England, who were left feeling robbed after a controversial no-try decision in the final minute.
The Australian win set up an enthralling final round of the tournament with England facing unbeaten New Zealand on Saturday in Dunedin before the Australia-Samoa game a day later.
England have set their sights on beating the Kiwis by 10 points, which would see them leap-frog them into top spot on the ladder and guarantee a berth in the November 15 final in Wellington.
Heading into the last round New Zealand’s points differential is +20 and Australia’s is -14, which depending on the Saturday result could set the Kangaroos a mammoth challenge against Samoa.
Australia haven’t missed the final of a major rugby league tournament since the inaugural World Cup in 1954.
England prop James Graham said his side were already looking ahead to beating New Zealand, which would ease the pain of their loss to Australia.
“We’ve got to try and put this week behind us as quickly as possible,” Graham said.
“New Zealand in New Zealand is a really tough ask but we need to move on from the disappointment against Australia and focus on getting the win against the Kiwis.”
The Australians say they’re not thinking about points differentials and only focusing on beating Samoa, who have had two agonisingly close defeats.
The Samoans felt hard done by in their two-point loss to New Zealand on Saturday while they also led for much of their earlier England clash but were over-run 32-26.
“We understand that it will be a really hard for game for us and it’s a must-win,” said Kangaroos assistant coach Craig Fitzgibbon on Monday.
“Samoa are a team that have nothing to lose so it makes them unpredictable.
“We’re preparing for a really, hard physical game as everyone can see how big and strong those boys are but we know we’re up for a hard game.”
FOUR NATIONS TABLE
Team Played Won Lost For Against Difference Points
New Zealand 2 2 0 44 24 +20 4
England 2 1 1 44 42 +2 2
Australia 2 1 1 28 42 -14 2
Samoa 2 0 2 38 46 -8 0