Fullback Billy Slater survives intensive training

LIAM FITZGIBBON
Last updated 08:16 28/11/2013

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Billy Slater's Kangaroos teammates have not held back in testing out his injured left knee as he battles to be fit for Saturday's Rugby League World Cup final.

The 30-year-old returned to full training on Wednesday for the first time since he was hurt in Australia's quarter-final win over the United States a fortnight ago.

Slater will be given until match day to prove his fitness but the Melbourne Storm star is confident of joining his teammates in the quest to avenge New Zealand's triumph in the 2008 final.

Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens said Slater dealt with everything thrown at him in a physical training session in Manchester, revealing he copped a heavy hit from Greg Inglis - the man who would take his place at fullback if he is ruled out.

"GI actually flattened him. I think GI wanted the spot," Sheens said.

"He (Slater) got manhandled, tackled, he did everything full on.

"He's confident but we've still got to make a decision based on how he pulls up tomorrow.

"He went through a very thorough test and we have to be (thorough) to even risk it."

Slater will be named on Thursday in Australia's 19-man squad for the clash at Old Trafford if he pulls up well, but he will still need to come through Friday's training session unscathed.

"The test will be ongoing for the week, we've got to be 100 per cent sure here as he does want to be," Sheens said.

"We're not playing around with this. The tests will step up again on Friday if everything comes through."

Sheens insisted doubts over Slater's fitness had not been a disruption to preparations, with Inglis shifting effortlessly into the No.1 jersey in the semi-final win over Fiji.

Should Slater return Inglis would shift back to the centres, likely forcing Brent Tate out of the starting side.

But the coach would not reveal if Tate was being considered for a role off the bench, possibly at the expense of Josh Papalii.

"I wouldn't speculate on that at this point," Sheens said.

"The final team make-up out of the 19 named will be done after Friday's session and even on Saturday morning."

Sheens and Kangaroos captain Cameron Smith joined Kiwi counterparts Stephen Kearney and Simon Mannering for Wednesday's official press conference at Old Trafford.

Kearney said wingers Manu Vatuvei (groin) and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (leg) had returned to training while Frank Pritchard (hamstring) would have a run on Thursday.

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- AAP

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