Kangaroos prop Aaron Woods will need a painkilling injection to play in the World Cup final as brushed off a fitness doubt over Josh McGuire before Saturday night’s decider in Brisbane.
The Bulldogs-bound Woods, who will butt heads with former Canterbury captain and English firebrand James Graham, is craving a six-week rest arguably more than any other player after aggravating a shoulder injury in the semi-final romp over Fiji.
But he insisted there will be no excuses against Wayne Bennett’s rugged England pack, which will need to bully their opponents to have any chance of engineering a boilover in the final.
“Before the game I’ll probably get a needle and see how it feels,” Woods said.
“I thought I had popped my shoulder out [against Fiji] and I did my AC when I was younger. At the moment I’ve got a separated AC and it just made it a little more separated.
“It can become a bit uncomfortable, but if you have a few painkillers before the game you can’t feel it. A lot of blokes have it and it’s a common rugby league injury. It just needs rest.
“I’ll just get through this game and then I’ve got six weeks off.”
It means Woods will arrive at Belmore fit and firing for a truncated pre-season under new Bulldogs coach Dean Pay, who is already putting the club’s other marquee recruit Kieran Foran through his paces.
McGuire trained in isolation away from the main Kangaroos group on Tuesday morning as he battles an ankle complaint, while Will Chambers is overcoming a toe issue.
Yet most concern rests with McGuire.
“He was off his feet [on Tuesday] morning and I’m sure he’ll be right to train [on Wednesday] and the team run as well,” McGuire’s Brisbane and Kangaroos teammate Matt Gillett said.
Meninga named an unchanged 17 for the final.
Kangaroos skipper Cameron Smith has been the biggest advocate of the one-referee system employed throughout the World Cup, but members of his forward pack have warned it won’t add to a great spectacle in international rugby league’s showpiece.
Smith’s praise came after the Kangaroos’ gritty 18-4 win against England in the tournament opener, but Woods and Gillett are expecting a grinding clash against Bennett’s side.
“It probably won’t be as an exciting football game as everyone wants to see … open and the ball passed around,” Woods said.
“But I suppose whoever gives in one bit, the other team has got to take the opportunity with open hands. It will be like the first time we played each other.”
Added Gillett: “Obviously with the one ref it slows things down a lot. As everyone has seen it makes the ruck pretty slow and it gives you a bit more time to pin them down.”
Gillett laughed at suggestions his Broncos coach, Wayne Bennett, doesn’t think England can beat after comments he made in the wake of the heart-stopping semi-final win over Tonga.
Bennett was an assistant to Stephen Kearney in New Zealand’s 2008 stunner at Suncorp Stadium.
“He said that, but I’m sure everyone realises he doesn’t mean it,” Gillett said. “He’s taking the pressure off them and helps them prepare and do all the right things. Coming here on Saturday night they’ll think they can win.
“I don’t think he would have kept anything up his sleeve. He’s all about training to the way you play and doing it on the training paddock before you go out and perform. For him to throw something in there out of left-field wouldn’t be like Wayne.”