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Mal Meninga won’t have too many complaints as his Australia side booked their Rugby League World Cup quarter-final place in Saturday night stroll against a spirited but outclassed Italy.

Three group games won with 186 points scored and just 14 conceded underlines just why the defending champions are still the ones to beat, this success a record 15th consecutive victory at the tournament.

It’s nearly four decades since Meninga spent a season with St Helens, 28 tries in 31 games not doing justice to the impact he had in a league-winning campaign.

The Totally Wicked Stadium, where the Saints moved in 2012, is no Knowsley Road but no-one here has forgotten Mal, who shook every hand and posed for every selfie as he brought his Kangaroos to his old stomping ground.

And just as he once dominated here, so did they.

Meninga’s big challenges lie ahead, with a probable quarter-final date with Michael Cheika’s Lebanon, while the world number one side New Zealand likely lurk in the semi-finals.

But this was a night to relive some old memories on the quest to making some new ones.

The experiment of playing Daly Cherry-Evans and Nathan Cleary together in the halves is unlikely to be repeated in the knockout stages when the rested Cameron Munster returns.

However, both demonstrated why the halfback decision is Meninga’s toughest selection puzzle, though Cleary uncharacteristically scuffed his early efforts at goal before securing an 18-point contribution with the boot.

With eight changes to the starting line that steamrollered Scotland in Coventry, this was not as fluent a display by the Kangaroos, though they still scored five first half tries.

It was Cherry-Evans who pulled the string on a precision kick that Valentine Holmes gathered to touchdown the 13th World Cup score of his career, edging ever closer to record-holder Billy Slater’s 16.

Four quick-passes took the Kangaroos from left to right and stretched the retreating Azzurri to breaking point as Murray Taulagi scythed through for the first of two tries.

Captain James Tedesco, who has played more internationals in the blue of Italy than Australia’s green and gold, sold a dummy and crashed over against his former team.

And Campbell Graham, a hat-trick star one week ago, showed great athleticism to gather a high ball, hurdling Daniel Atkinson and running in unopposed.

There was a point when Latrell Mitchell considered sitting out this World Cup after a hectic NRL season punctuated by a troublesome hamstring injury.

He was planning an off-season with his kids on the family farm until an appeal from Meninga and he showed just why this side is stronger with him involved.

First he battered through tackles to score and then delivered a perfectly-timed backhanded pass to set up Taulagi’s second.

Australia’s domination continued after the break, Tedesco’s burst of speed – his final contribution before he was signalled to the bench – and Cherry-Evans’s offload set up Issah Yeo, who doubled his tournament tally after scoring on debut last week.

He then turned provider, a trio of Grand Final-winning Penrith Panthers combining as Cleary threaded the final pass for Liam Martin to cross the line.

This had the potential to be a long night for Leo Epifania’s Italy but they never let their heads drop and even Australian fans cheered when London Broncos’ Rinaldo Palumbo chased down Radean Robinson’s deft kick to prevent a Kangaroo shut out.

Campbell bustled over for his second while further scores from Cameron Murray, player of the match Jeremiah Nanai and Lindsay Collins completed a 66-6 win that was more heaven than hell for the Kangaroos.