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Ego is a dirty word as Cleary and DCE prepare to  join forces

Australia's two on-field generals, Daly Cherry-Evans and Nathan Cleary, will play side by side in the halves for the first and most likely last time when the Kangaroos meet Italy in St Helens on Sunday morning (AEDT).

Such is the embarrassment of riches at coach Mal Meninga's disposal, he will have to choose between the two premier playmakers to play halfback in the knockout stages, but for now they will team up to help Australia tune up for the big games to come.

Manly skipper Cherry-Evans steered the ship in round one against Fiji before the Panthers supremo took charge in the 84-0 romp over Scotland. Both made a strong case to be the main man come the quarter-finals; both are acutely aware only one of them will play and the other most likely watches from the grandstand.

The Italy game looms as a shootout for the coveted halfback role but Cleary is adamant neither he nor Cherry-Evans will be putting their personal ambitions above the team goals.

"We want to combine well and do whatever is best for the jersey," Cleary said.

"We are playing alongside each other so there's no way we will try and outdo each other. Want to combine well and do whatever is best for the jersey.

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"It's exciting, I got to play alongside Munny [Cameron Munster] last week and now alongside Chez. 

"We'll mix it up a bit depending on who has the flow at the time. It's a bit different [to a normal game] but Daly’s so good I can just float around and work off him.

"Within the group no-one is thinking ‘I need to do well to make the team’, you want to play well for the team and for the Kangaroos because it’s an honour to pull on the jersey.

There’s no individuals and egos taking over trying to make themselves better, it's all about making the team better.

Kangaroos playmaker Nathan Cleary

Heading into his 17th Test match for his country, Cherry-Evans is looking forward to playing alongside the man widely regarded as the best halfback in the business.

More than a decade after making his Test debut against Wales at the 2011 Four Nations, Cherry-Evans continues to perform at an elite level, and he is looking forward to working alongside Cleary to unlock a red hot Kangaroos backline capable of racking up a century if they hit top gear.

"Nathan and I are really clear on how we are going to play. We both naturally play halfback but what we just figured out at training was the more we are moving around and connecting with Teddy [James Tedesco] is the secret for us," Cherry-Evans said.

"Mal has made it so clear from the get-go that some big decisions will be need to be made [around selection] and some people will miss out, not because they are playing bad but because we have so many good players.

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"I knew at some stage we’d play some footy together because I was confident I was playing well enough to be here and I knew he'd be here.

"There's no ego there. We're both happy to play a role for the team this weekend.

"It's been cool being around Nathan in camp and seeing why he has been so good for so long. 

"He is always kicking footy's and doing extras; it’s good to see some things never change. That’s what JT [Johnathan Thurston] was doing, that’s what Locky [Darren Lockyer] was doing."

"I have played with some great halfbacks through the years [at rep level] and I pride myself on being able to play different positions and a different style."

Kangaroos v Ireland, RLWC, 2013

Having played five-eighth outside Cooper Cronk in five Test matches in 2013-14 and come off the bench in five other internationals, Cherry-Evans is confident in his ability to handle any job Meninga throws at him in the coming weeks.

"I have played with some great halfbacks through the years [at rep level] and I pride myself on being able to play different positions and a different style," he said.

"At the start of my [Test] career I was happy to be here and I just wanted to learn. That fire starts to burn pretty early on once you get into camp you realise what it's all about and how good it is.

"I guess someone will have to do that for this team, come off the bench, even if they're not a bench player at their club.

"But that's the strength of Australia and it always has been and it always will be - they are going to pick the best 17 players to represent Australia and although it's not your club position you have to do the best thing for your jersey, and that's why we've had two strong games to start is because we are willing to do that."

Acknowledgement of Country

Penrith Panthers players and staff respect and honour the traditional custodians of the land and pay our respects to their elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.