Morgan wins race for Kangaroos five-eighth spot

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Michael Morgan will start at five-eighth in Australia's Rugby League World Cup opener against England on Friday.

With Johnathan Thurston absent from the tournament due to a shoulder injury, Mal Meninga has picked the North Queensland Cowboys star to join Cooper Cronk in the halves.

Morgan was handed the number six jersey ahead of James Maloney of Cronulla Sharks and Melbourne Storm's Cameron Munster.

"All of my games bar one for Australia have been off the bench in a different role," Morgan said prior to Tuesday's team announcement from the reigning champions.

"It's where I prefer to play, so look I'd feel comfortable if given the opportunity. I'm under no illusions there's plenty of competition. Just to be in the side, I'll be happy with.

"I think more can come into it at times, whether it's combinations of things like that, or who's more suited to the team we're playing against."

Billy Slater will make his first Australia appearance since the 2014 Anzac Test at full-back, while Dane Gagai will make his debut on the wing.

There could also be first Test appearances for Jordan McLean and Wade Graham, who have been named on the bench.