Veteran centre Brent Tate has been dropped from the Kangaroos squad to face the United States, paving the way for Jarryd Hayne to start in Saturday’s Rugby League World Cup quarter-final.
Tate had been the incumbent right centre in Tim Sheens’ first-choice Australian side but was the odd man out as the a 20-man squad was trimmed by one on Thursday.
Tate joined Josh Morris and Michael Jennings in being left out of the squad for the clash at Wrexham, in Wales, meaning Hayne has likely won the race to partner Greg Inglis in the centres.
Sheens had been keen to play his cards close to his chest over the contentious position but Tate’s axing was revealed when tournament officials announced Australia’s 19-man squad on Thursday, despite the Kangaroos initially naming 20 players.
Hayne missed out on selection in Australia’s tournament-opening win over England but impressed in pool matches against Fiji and Ireland as Sheens rotated his squad.
The Parramatta star played on the wing in both games but it appears his form has convinced Sheens to play him out of position at centre, although the coach could also opt to shift Brett Morris closer to the middle.
Hayne’s likely selection means he will face Eels teammate Joseph Paulo on Saturday and the US captain won’t be surprised if that is the case.
Paulo said earlier on Thursday he already had a feeling Hayne would be playing because he hadn’t been receiving text messages from his good friend recently.
“I was actually trying to see if he was still coming to my wedding but he hasn’t replied lately so I figured he must be picked,” Paulo said.
“I know how gifted and talented he is and it is great knowing he will be out there playing against us.”
Hayne scored a double in last week’s 50-0 win over Ireland in Limerick, his eighth Test for Australia.
The NSW star this week paid tribute to 25-year-old Paulo, who has been one of the players of the tournament and instrumental in the Tomahawks’ unlikely run to knockout stages.
Hayne has played with Paulo since juniors and said the ball-playing backrower would return to the Eels next season a better player for his World Cup experience.
“It will be good for his confidence and obviously the exposure as well,” Hayne said.
“He has come from nowhere.
“I remember when he was in the qualifying stages last year and just to make it (to the World Cup) was huge for them.
“Then for them to come over and shock the world is great.”
Sheens will not name his final 17 until an hour before Saturday’s match.
Australian 19-man squad: Billy Slater, Darius Boyd, Greg Inglis, Jarryd Hayne, Brett Morris, Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk, Matthew Scott, Cameron Smith (c), James Tamou, Nate Myles, Sam Thaiday, Paul Gallen (vc), Daly Cherry-Evans, Corey Parker, Greg Bird, Andrew Fifita, Boyd Cordner, Josh Papalii.