Meninga hails new, mature Munster ahead of Tests

Mal Meninga insists he will welcome a far more mature Cameron Munster into Kangaroos camp next week as he shows faith in the halves combination that won Queensland the final State of Origin clash at Suncorp Stadium this year.

Munster will partner Daly Cherry-Evans against New Zealand in Auckland on October 6 with the Australian coach impressed with the way the duo combined to inspire the Maroons only win of the Origin series.

Munster, fresh from being named the Melbourne Storm player of the year, had a skirmish with Kangaroos teammate Ben Hunt during last year's World Cup campaign and conceded himself that he had some maturing to do off the field.

Meninga has kept in touch with Storm coach Craig Bellamy about Munster's progress and said he was more than satisfied the dashing number six had made massive strides forward in his all-round development.

"Cameron has had a terrific year, on and off the footy field," Meninga said.

"I was talking to Craig [Bellamy] and he's matured a tremendous amount through the year, which he had to.

"Cooper Cronk wasn't there anymore and [Munster] was playing in a position that he probably didn't want to play in, because he wants to play fullback, but he handled his rise really well all year."

While both Australian halves like to run the ball, Cherry-Evans took control in Origin III with his kicking game and Munster injected himself at the right times in a combination Meninga wants to unleash in Test football.

"We saw their connection in that third Origin game where Cherry has come in and blown everyone off the park with his game," Meninga said.

"Cameron I thought combined really well with him in Game Three so hopefully we see more of that in the next few games."

While Munster will get a crack at holding down the Kangaroos number six jersey, by no means does he have a mortgage on it.

Injuries to Panthers halves Nathan Cleary and James Maloney ruled them out of Test consideration while the Cowboys' Michael Morgan, last year's World Cup-winning five-eighth, was also out of contention with injury.

Meninga said Sydney Roosters premiership winning five-eighth Luke Keary was also breathing down Munster's neck after also being awarded the Clive Churchill Medal for his grand final display.

Munster had a game to forget after being sin-binned twice and Keary would have taken his Test jumper had the Storm five-eighth been suspended for kicking Joseph Manu in the head, an action he later apologised for.

"[Keary] was the shadow player just in case Cameron Munster didn't make it because of that outburst at the end of the game," Meninga said.

"Thankfully Cameron is playing but Luke has been on the selection table for at least 12 months."

Before the Australian side goes into camp in Brisbane on Sunday ahead of two Tests against the Kiwis and Tonga, Meninga will cast his eye over a bevy of youthful outside backs when the Prime Minister's XIII take on PNG on Saturday in Port Moresby.

"We have about half a dozen young kids and I like the look of Zac Lomax and Nick Cotric of course," Meninga said.

"Not that many people know about [fullback] Corey Allan but he has been a success in the Intrust Super Cup.

"It is going to be a blend of experience and inexperience, but a lot of enthusiasm. I am sure the Prime Minister's team will enjoy the experience up there. It is a great place to play rugby league."