Daly Cherry-Evans insists Australia still deserve to be favourites to defend their World Cup title, despite the Kangaroos losing a State of Origin-calibre side to rival nations.
Australia will fly to the UK on Friday with 13 possible debutants in their 24-man squad, and only five players remaining from 2017's tournament.
Included among those lost to other nations are wingers Joseph Suaalii, Brian To'o, Jarome Luai, Junior Paulo and Josh Papali'i.
Payne Haas is among others who will not feature in the Australian team, having opted not to travel to England for personal reasons.
On paper, the list of players choosing not to play for Australia would offer up a significant chance of defeating the defending champions.
But Cherry-Evans was adamant the Kangaroos still deserve the tag of tournament favourites.
"It's definitely been opened up a bit more in terms of the selection," Cherry-Evans told AAP.
"But I still hold Australia in the highest regard. It's still the most prestigious jersey for me.
"Growing up, Australia was always the best. We have a lot of hard work in front of us to keep that.
"It's going to be one of the more tightly contested world cups for sure. There is a bit more of a spread of players.
"I have a lot of faith in this group, that we will be able to win this World Cup and keep Australia at the top."
Kangaroos players are also adamant the defections are good for the sport.
"It is what it is. It's good for the game," Cameron Munster said.
"Everyone is talking about eligibility with Origin. But I admire the players who are not playing for Australia and are playing for their countries.
"They want to show their parents that they are proud of them and want to play for their countries."
Munster was unmoved when asked who of Cherry-Evans or Nathan Cleary, vying for the No.7 jersey, would be his preferred halves partner.
They will both likely feature in the group stages, before coach Mal Meninga makes a call on his best 17 for the finals.
Cherry-Evans insisted that, whoever lines up for Australia, the same processes will be in place, with team success remaining paramount.
"We just have to make sure we do our job," he said.
"The worst thing you can do is try and play for yourself. It's noticeable, it's never a good look and it never ends well.
"Me and Munny have played a fair few Origin games together now. Benny Hunt has been our hooker, as well as Harry (Grant).
"If that's the team we have on the day, we're pretty familiar with each other's games. That will definitely work in our favour.
"But there are other combos in this side with Nathan and Isaah (Yeo) and Teddy (James Tedesco)."
BEST AUSTRALIA 17:
James Tedesco, Valentine Holmes, Latrell Mitchell, Jack Wighton, Josh Addo-Carr, Cameron Munster, Nathan Cleary/Daly Cherry-Evans, Tino Fa'asuamaleaui, Ben Hunt, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Angus Crichton, Cameron Murray, Isaah Yeo. Harry Grant, Pat Carrigan, Lindsay Collins, Liam Martin. 18th: Jeremiah Nanai.
BEST AUSTRALIANS PLAYING ELSEWHERE:
Alex Johnston, Brian To'o, Stephen Crichton, Joseph Suaalii, Xavier Coates, Jarome Luai, Luke Keary, Payne Haas*, Api Koroisau, Junior Paulo, David Fifita, Keaon Koloamatangi, Victor Radley, Mitch Moses, Josh Papali'i, Moeaki Fotuaika, Felise Kaufusi. 18th: Haumole Olakau'atu.
* Haas opted not to play