Mal Meninga will use the NRL All Stars to run his eye over Jarryd Hayne as he prepares to unleash the crosscode star at next year’s World Cup.
The Gold Coast superstar fullback headlined the 20-man squad named by World All Stars coach Meninga for the February 10 clash against the Indigenous All Stars in Newcastle.
While Hayne has in the past haunted Meninga, he is shaping as Australia’s x-factor ahead of next year’s World Cup defence on home soil.
The former San Francisco 49er will be a big part of the Australian coach’s plans next year and the All Stars will give him an early chance to assess the 28-year-old.
Former Queensland coach Meninga is acutely aware of Hayne’s game-breaking ability and remembers well his series-defining performance during NSW’s State of Origin win in 2014.
“He did cause a lot of problems for Queensland,” Meninga said.
“I’m not quite sure where the Titans are going to use him, fullback may be his best position but it’s nice to have him in the All Stars.
“I’ve worked with Jarryd before in the PM’s XIII concept and I think the players will be excited about playing with Jarryd.”
There are still several questions to be answered about Hayne including where Titans coach Neil Henry will play him next year.
Upon his return to rugby league late last year, he was at times used at five-eighth but with the Titans likely to roll out a young halves combination of Ashley Taylor and Kane Elgey, Hayne looks set to wear the No.1 again.
And while he showed glimpses of his brilliance in his six NRL appearances at the back end of 2016, he is yet to recapture his best form.
Meninga predicted he would be a different player with a full pre-season under his belt after coming back to the NRL underdone after stints in the NFL and Rugby Sevens.
“It’ll make a massive, massive difference. He came back and wasn’t rugby league fit,” Meninga said.
“It took him a while to find his feet. An off-season for him and being fit and healthy, it will pay enormous dividends for him and the club.”