Injury has robbed Broncos veteran Justin Hodges of a last gasp trans-Tasman Test audition, adding to a Kangaroos backline problem that has coach Tim Sheens concerned ahead of the May 1 clash.
But it seems Sheens will have no shortage of forwards after Sharks captain Paul Gallen (hip) further boosted the Test stocks with his return for Cronulla.
Hodges (hamstring) is at long odds of playing the trans-Tasman showdown in Brisbane after being overlooked for the Broncos’ Saturday night home NRL clash with Parramatta.
He did not return in the second half of last round’s loss to the Dragons.
Hodges joins a host of backline talent on the NRL sidelines that also includes the Bulldogs’ Brett Morris, Melbourne’s Billy Slater and Penrith’s Josh Mansour – much to Sheens’ concern.
Sheens confirms his Test line-up on Sunday.
“The outside backs… with Billy Slater doubtful, Brett Morris unavailable and Justin Hodges finished halfway through the game so there is concern there,” he told Fox Sports.
Gallen’s return has boosted forward depth – and the Test side’s average age.
Sheens admitted he may name what is being touted as the oldest Kangaroos team in history this weekend with up to 10 players on the wrong side of 30.
“Possibly. But in saying that they are a once in a generation group of players,” he said.
“But we need a succession plan. It’s been discussed.”
Asked about a bolter, Sheens said: “There will always be someone in that regard – we will wait and see.”
Gallen will warm up for Test duty in the Sharks’ Sunday clash against a Penrith outfit missing Mansour.
The incumbent Test winger (knee) has been replaced by George Jennings.
Mansour was relieved after scans revealed he suffered a torn medial ligament against Gold Coast last round.
“I am looking at coming back in five to six weeks. It’s not the end of the world,” Mansour told Panthers TV.
Josh Morris (ankle) will stake a Test claim when he returns from injury for the Bulldogs’ Friday night clash with Wests Tigers along with Sam Kasiano (suspension).
Konrad Hurrell’s Kiwi Test hopes are all but dashed after he was dropped for Saturday’s Warriors home clash with the Gold Coast.
Gold Coast have named Kangaroos hopeful Nate Myles for the Auckland match despite the skipper still battling a calf injury, but the Titans will be without Dave Taylor (suspension).
At Manly, Kieran Foran returns at five-eighth replacing Jamie Lyon (ankle) for Saturday’s clash in Melbourne.
At Newcastle, coach Rick Stone has surprisingly kept the faith with his side that has lost three straight for their Anzac Day clash with North Queensland.
However, the Knights are still without Beau Scott (ankle), robbing the Cowboys of a chance for revenge after North Queensland playmaker Johnathan Thurston was left black and blue in round two.
At Canberra, Paul Vaughan moves into the front row for Dane Tilse (Hull KR) with Shaun Fensom (ankle) returning at lock for Sunday’s Cairns clash with South Sydney.