“If we were picking an Australian side, this would have been the team,” Daley said. “Boyd Cordner was named captain, and like all representative sides, you name your team and players can then be ruled in or out with injury. It was the same story with Cam Murray [who suffered a hamstring injury].
“We thought this was the fairest thing to do.”
As for Cleary, 23, getting the nod over Cherry-Evans, 31, Daley said: “Cherry-Evans can consider himself unlucky and he played really well.
“But we thought Cleary was deserving of it. Not only did he play well in Origin but he played well throughout the year.
“I’m sure everyone will have a strong opinion on the [halfback] either way.
“But if we were going down the path of picking a side for a game next week, that’s the way we would have went.
‘If we were going down the path of picking a side for a game next week, that’s the way we would have went.’
“Nathan, on the back of having a good year with Penrith getting to the grand final, that’s the way we went.”
Cleary had a game to forget in Origin I in Adelaide while Cherry-Evans struggled behind a beaten pack and without Cameron Munster in game two.
The World Cup in England has been postponed until next year. Cherry-Evans, the Kangaroos incumbent, and Cleary will both feature in the squad provided they maintain form and fitness.
Harry Grant, who had one of the great Origin debuts for Queensland, will struggle to toss Damien Cook from the hooking duties, but could make the squad if he has an impressive year as Melbourne’s new No.9.
The NRL also announced on Monday insurance broker Gallagher as the Kangaroos’ naming rights sponsor.
The 2020 Gallagher Kangaroos Merit Team:
1. James Tedesco
2. Josh Addo-Carr
3. Dane Gagai
4. Jack Wighton
5. Daniel Tupou
6. Cameron Munster
7. Nathan Cleary
8. Josh Papalii
9. Damien Cook
10. Christian Welch
11 Boyd Cordner (captain)
12. Felise Kaufusi
13. Cameron Murray
14. Ryan Papenhuyzen
15. Payne Haas
16. Angus Crichton
17. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui
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Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.