‘Samoa can be the best in the world’ before the World Cup

Winger David Novwaluma said Samoa has what it takes to challenge Rugby World Cup glory later this year and aims to show its credentials against the Cook Islands at Campbelltown on Saturday.

Samoa has won only one of their last nine internationals, but since their last game in 2019, NRL stars of Samoan descent including Jarome Louay, Jeremiah Nanai and Josh Schuster have emerged as true game leaders.

Four out of five Prime Minister’s centre-backs, Penrith, are eligible to represent Samoa, while Josh Papale, Josh Aluyi and Payne Haas are among the top-tier strikers with Samoan heritage.

“I think it’s clear to everyone that Samoa can be one of the best countries in the world, if not the best,” Wests Tigers star Nofoaluma told AAP.

“This weekend, we have a lot of young talent on our squad.

“It will give our coaching staff an insight into what the team will look like at the end of the year.”

Novwaluma said he expected the Samoa national team, which went to the World Cup in October, to be stronger than his country on Saturday.

Of the 34 players who appeared in State of Origin’s second game on Sunday, nine are eligible to play for Samoa but will not appear in this weekend’s Pacific Test series due to the match match.

But the nine could line up at the World Cup. Samoa’s status as a non-first-class country means that players are able to appear at the origin level without having to compromise on representing Samoa.

Novwaluma expected any number of Louay, Babali, Haas, Nanai, Stephen Crichton, Brian Too, Tino Vaaswamalewe, Murray Taulagi and Junior Paulo to join Samoa at the World Cup.

“I’m sure there are a few players out there who play in Oregon who would like to choose to play for Samoa,” Novwaluma said.

“Australia and New Zealand have some Samoan players on their teams so we are delighted to see them join us at the end of the year.”

Only six of the Cook Islands’ 17 members are in the NRL’s top 30, but Samoan linebacker Charlie Staines said he and his teammates know better than to underestimate their rivals.

“They will come out strong and show a lot of passion and pride,” he said.

“We are looking forward to it.”

In the second Pacific Test at Campbelltown Stadium on Sunday, Papua New Guinea will face Fiji.

William Kekau, Tui Kamikamika and Mika Sefu are among the NFL players who took to the pitch for Fiji, while Justin Olam and Alex Johnston are among the Papua New Guinea players.

PNG captain David Mead said the friction of the NRL players would help his fellow lower-tier players master their craft ahead of the World Cup.

“I can see them open their ears and learn as much as they can so they can bring him back to the PNG Hunters (Queensland Cup side),” he said.

“It’s definitely a very exciting week for them.”

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