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Samoa v Cook Islands: Panther power meets band of brothers

Tuesday 21 June 2022 | Written by Supplied | Published in Rugby league, Sports

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Samoa v Cook Islands: Panther power meets band of brothers
Kayal Iro who made his NRL debut with Cronulla Sharks in August this year is one of the rising stars named in the national team’s Rugby League World Cup squad. CIRL/22100329Photo: Supplied/22062004

Emotions will run high for players from both sides as Cook Islands and Samoa clash for the first time since a 2009 Pacific Cup qualifier in Cairns.

On that night it was the unfancied Cook Islands side under the coaching of David Fairleigh which sprung a 22-20 upset to qualify for the main draw in Port Moresby, where they had a win over Fiji before losing to PNG in the final.

Samoa went on to participate in the 2013 and 2017 World Cups, reaching the quarter-finals on both occasions, while their most recent Test match appearance in 2019 resulted in a loss to Fiji in Auckland.

With the honour of opening this year's World Cup against England at Newcastle's St James' Park awaiting them in October, Samoa are out to make a statement this weekend and build momentum towards the game's showpiece event.

Cook Islands beat South Africa and the USA in repechage matches to qualify for their third World Cup having been part of the big show in 2000 and 2013, so it's crucial they build some combinations and gain some confidence.

Team News - Cook Islands

Under the guidance of Tony Iro, the squad features three sets of brothers - Esan and Steven Marsters, Reuben and Vincent Rennie, and Kayal and Andre Iro - the sons of Kiwis and Cook Islands great Kevin Iro.

Former Roosters and Sharks forward Tinirau Arona will return from England to provide experience for a young Cook Islands outfit which also includes Broncos Brendan Piakura and Xavier Willison, Rabbitohs prop Davvy Moale, Warriors forward Pride Pettersen-Robati and Eels prop Makahesi Makatoa.

Former Warrior Anthony Gelling will look to add to the eight caps he has earned since debuting back in 2009 in the game in Cairns, which includes two at the 2013 World Cup against the USA and Wales.

Team News - Samoa

Coach Matt Parish has chosen a 20-man squad which features Panthers Izack Tago, Taylan May, Charlie Staines and Spencer Leniu as well as Manly pair Josh Schuster and Toafofoa Sipley and Dragons Francis Molo and Mat Feagai, all of whom are in line for a Test debut.

Plenty of experience in the line-up with Martin Taupau, Josh Aloiai, Jaydn Su’A, Jazz Tevaga, Bunty Afoa and Luciano Leilua in the pack and David Nofoaluma and Anthony Milford in the backline.

Warriors playmakers Chanel Harris-Tavita and Ronald Volkman, South Sydney’s Jaxson Paulo and Brisbane forward Keenan Palasia are new additions

Key match-up

Martin Taupau v Davvy Moale

Taupau has been a regular on the international stage since debuting for Samoa in 2013, having chalked up three Tests for Samoa and 24 for the Kiwis. He will leave nothing in the tank in his bid to get his team across the line and every Cook Islands forward will have to be on high alert for his fearsome charges. At 19 years of age and eight games into his NRL career, young Rabbitoh Moale gets a perfect opportunity to match motors with one of the game's elite props on a big stage. The forward battle is sure to be willing and the inexperienced Cook Islands outfit are sure to have their hands full with the likes of Taupau, Josh Aloiai and Bunty Afoa, but if Moale can hold his own in the early exchanges he could be in for a night to remember.

Stat attack

David Nofoaluma ran for 157 metres and had an astonishing 12 tackle breaks in Samoa's 18-6 win over Papua New Guinea at Leichhardt Oval in June, 2019. The Wests Tigers flyer enoyed the familiar turf of Leichhardt and he'll have the same 'home ground advantage' on Saturday at Campbelltown, where he ran for 150 metres in the Tigers' last home game against Manly.