Smith tips Slater to make final

Billy SlaterAustralia captain Cameron Smith says Billy Slater will do all he can to be fit for the Rugby League World Cup final against New Zealand after being named in his country’s 19-man squad for the Old Trafford showdown (Australia 1/3, NZ 5/2, draw 20/1 – Match odds).

The full-back returned to training on Wednesday and will be assessed ahead of Saturday’s final after recovering from the knee injury he sustained in the Wallabies’ quarter-final victory over the USA.

He sat out the semi-final success over Fiji but appears to have made a sooner-than-expected comeback after being included in Tim Sheens’ extended 19-man party (Australia winning margin 1-5pts – 5/1).

Slater will train again on Friday in an attempt to prove he is ready to start the game but a final decision is not expected to be made until Saturday, with Greg Inglis again set to fill-in at full-back if he does not make it.

Captain Smith says Slater was tested in training and he is working hard to ensure he is ready to face New Zealand.

“He got a fair work-out today, I’ll tell you that,” Smith said. “He had to tackle a few of our forwards and a few of our guys got stuck into tackling him.

“The one thing I can say is that he’ll give himself every opportunity. He’s very diligent with his recovery and his rehab and he’ll be working around the clock to get himself right.

“The issue he’s had is not so much the damage in his knee, because he hasn’t got much in there to damage. He’s already got rid of all his ligaments in his knee. It’s just the swelling in there.”

Meanwhile, New Zealand have called up Greg Eastwood after second row Frank Pritchard was ruled out. Winger Manu Vatuvei remains a doubt but Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has recovered from an ankle injury and should be fit to play.

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