Mal Meninga is glad to see Test matches move to the end of the season.
Mal Meninga is glad to see Test matches move to the end of the season. DAVID MOIR

Meninga happy with Test shake-up

RUGBY LEAGUE: With Mal Meninga's former stomping ground Canberra set to host the final Anzac Test in May, the Kangaroos coach has backed an international rugby league shake-up as "order restoring".

The last of the somewhat contentious mid-year Australia-New Zealand Tests will be played at Canberra Stadium on Friday, May 5 during rep round, with the fixture announced yesterday.

The nation's capital last held an Anzac Test in 2013 when Australia downed the Kiwis 32-12 in front of a 25,000 strong, near-capacity crowd.

From 2018 all matches involving the Kangaroos will be played once the NRL season has wrapped up, reinstalling what Meninga sees as a natural representative hierarchy of club, Origin and Test football.

"It makes sense, it's order restored. You've got the domestic season, you have Origin halfway through the year, you have finals and then you pick your Test team.

"For me that is how it's done, it makes the Kangaroos the priority and a reward for the year."

Midyear Tests have attracted criticism in the past due to Australia's dominance and lukewarm interest so early in the NRL season.

This year's Anzac Test will be billed as a double header with a women's match between the Jillaroos and Kiwi Ferns locked in as the curtain raiser to the mens game.

It's believed the NRL's rep round, the home of popular all-Pacific internationals in recent seasons, will hold its early-May spot in an increasingly crowded rugby league calendar beyond 2017, with women's and Junior Kangaroos fixtures doing the same.

Two weeks ago Wayne Bennett selected a 31-man, Super League based England squad for the end-of-season World Cup and a May 6 mid-season Test to be played in Sydney against Samoa.

Meninga, along with Bennett, has been at pains to raise the profile of the international game and restore the green and gold jumper as a priority in players' rep footy aspirations.

This year's Anzac Test is the last chance Meninga has to assemble his stars before selecting a 24-man squad for the World Cup, kicking off on October 27.

The Australian coach confirmed to Fox Sports that the PM's XIII tours of Papua New Guinea will remain beyond 2017, while also forecasting another pre-World Cup trial for the Kangaroos as well.

"We'll still play the PM's game up north, that'll still remain part of the calendar," Meninga said.

"That provides a great game and a selection trial for the World Cup for those players that don't make the finals, and then we'll look at one other trial before the World Cup against one of the other teams."

The news comes as Meninga and Kangaroos star Johnathan Thurston backed talk of the Indigenous All Stars being involved in the lead up to the tournament.

The formation of an indigenous side to offer northern hemisphere nations such as Scotland and Wales warm-up matches has been floated, with Meninga suggesting a side could play Pacific nations or a Maori rep team throughout the NRL season.

"My choice would always be to play for Australia but it certainly has legs to grow," Thurston told The Australian.

"We can teach other people about our culture and the history it has. It also shows what we've endured over the year but we're still surviving."

News Corp Australia

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