Daly Cherry-Evans has been handed another chance to impress at the Rugby League World Cup, this time alongside the man he one day hopes to replace as Kangaroos halfback.
Manly star Cherry-Evans will make a second successive start for Australia after being named in the side to face Ireland in Limerick on Saturday.
The 24-year-old impressed at halfback alongside Johnathan Thurston in the win over Fiji last week and will shift to five-eighth to partner first-choice No.7 Cronk, who returns after being rested.
It comes as part of Tim Sheens’ continued squad rotation and the Kangaroos coach has made seven changes to the side that defeated Fiji 34-2 in St Helens.
Billy Slater, Brett Morris, Brent Tate, Greg Bird and Sam Thaiday all return to the side while first-choice stars Greg Inglis, Matt Scott and Darius Boyd join Thurston in being rested.
Sheens is set to pick his best 17 for the finals and Cherry-Evans is unlikely to unseat either Cronk or Thurston in the starting side.
However, another strong showing by the Clive Churchill medallist against Ireland will enhance his claims for a utility spot on the bench, with Sheens confirming he and Robbie Farah were involved in a live selection battle.
Farah has been named on the bench for the third straight match and Sheens said it was critical both players were getting game time in case injury struck later in the tournament.
“We don’t want to have an issue down the track and have anyone who’s not played any football. They’ve got to be playing,” Sheens said.
“The halves have understood that, even though they’re very competitive. Cooper and Johnathan would love to play every game.
“At the end of the day, it’s for the good of the squad.
“But obviously after the pool games I’m going to be more selective and I’m going to get down to the nitty gritty through the quarter-finals and hopefully past that.”
Captain Cameron Smith starts at hooker for the third straight match, denying Paul Gallen a chance to captain his country for the first time.
Gallen will also play a third successive match, named at prop, but both he and Smith will spend some time on the bench.
“I start with the skipper because he steadies the ship,” Sheens said of Smith, who played only a half game against Fiji.
“I’m giving him some rest in that respect, but I’m also ticking him along and making sure he gets us to where we need to go.”
Others playing a third straight game are front rower James Tamou and interchange forward Andrew Fifita.
Boyd Cordner will start on the bench after making his debut against Fiji and appears in pole position to claim the interchange forward spot vacated by injured backrower Luke Lewis.
Twins Josh and Brett Morris start next to each other for the third time in the green and gold while Smith and Corey Parker will likely share the goalkicking duties in Thurston’s absence.
Australia: Billy Slater, Jarryd Hayne, Brent Tate, Josh Morris, Brett Morris, Daly Cherry-Evans, Cooper Cronk, Paul Gallen, Cameron Smith (capt), James Tamou, Greg Bird, Sam Thaiday, Nate Myles. Interchange: Boyd Cordner, Robbie Farah, Andrew Fifita, Corey Parker, Josh Papalii, Johnathan Thurston, Michael Jennings. (three to be omitted).