Matt Parish has confirmed a 20-man squad to play for Samoa in next week's Pacific Test against the Cook Islands, overlooking all Origin-eligible players included in Game 1 squads.
All of Brian To'o, Jarome Luai, Junior Paulo, Stephen Crichton, Tino Fa'asuamaleaui, Josh Papalii and Felise Kaufusi were eligible for Samoa from the Game 1 Origin squads, while Queensland reserves Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and Murray Taulagi - who are now fighting for the wing spot vacated by the injured Xavier Coates - were also eligible.
Parish has decided to pick a squad of 20 away from that group of players though after Tonga yesterday included Daniel Tupou and Kotoni Staggs, as well as Origin hopeful Haumole Olakau'atu in a 25-man squad to play New Zealand in Auckland on the same day.
It's understood Tupou and Staggs will represent New South Wales.
The number of players who could find their way back into the Samoan squad for the end of year Rugby League World Cup will see a real battle for spots breakout during the clash against the Cook Islands, to be played on June 25 in Campbelltown.
The squad features four players each from the Warriors and Panthers, as well as three from the Sea Eagles and Dragons.
While they haven't announced it in numerical order, it's likely that David Nofoaluma or Charlie Staines will play fullback, with a battle to breakout for the remaining spots in the backline featuring Izack Tago, Jaxson Paulo, Mathew Feagai and Taylan May, as well as either Nofoaluma or Staines, meaning one of the six will miss out on the 17.
Anthony Milford, Chanel Harris-Tavita and young gun Ronald Volkman will battle over the spots in the halves, while a strong crop of forwards has been named.
Led by Martin Taupau, Luciano Leilua, Jaydn Su'A, the in-form Francis Molo and Manly gun Josh Schuster, the pack will also feature a combination of Bunty Afoa, Jazz Tevaga, Keenan Palasia, Spencer Leniu and Toafofoa Sipley with one player likely to miss out on the final 17.
Samoa squad to play Cook Islands
Anthony Milford (Newcastle Knights)
Bunty Afoa (New Zealand Warriors)
Chanel Harris-Tavita (New Zealand Warriors)
Charlie Staines (Penrith Panthers)
David Nofoaluma (Wests Tigers)
Francis Molo (St George Illawarra Dragons)
Izack Tago (Penrith Panthers)
Jaxson Paulo (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
Jaydn Su’a (St George Illawarra Dragons)
Jazz Tevaga (New Zealand Warriors)
Josh Aloiai (Manly Sea Eagles)
Josh Schuster (Manly Sea Eagles)
Keenan Palasia (Brisbane Broncos)
Luciano Leilua (North Queensland Cowboys)
Martin Taupau (Manly Sea Eagles)
Mathew Feagai (St George Illawarra Dragons)
Ronald Volkman (New Zealand Warriors)
Spencer Leniu (Penrith Panthers)
Taylan May (Penrith Panthers)
Toafofoa Sipley (Manly Sea Eagles)
I’m guessing that Matt Parrish feels he doesn’t need those SOO possibles to get a win. No disrespect to the Cook Islands, but they simply don’t have the number of classy players to threaten Samoa.
That approach avoids any “loyalty” clashes now, but it will not always be possible.
I would have preferred Matt to have bitten the bullet and issued a warning to all players who are qualified to play for Samoa:
“Gents, this is a World Cup year, and the opportunities for the national team to get together and play an international are going to be few. So, I am going to concentrate on getting together RIGHT NOW a squad for the Word Cup, and I’ll be picking only from that squad.
Please let me know whether you want to be in the national squad, or whether you want to keep yourself free for SOO selection.”
There would be a lot of squealing from players who want to play SOO now then move to play in the World Cup for Samoa, but this approach would have built a real “team” feeling within the squad.
I’m with you Harry – think all the Pacific Islands should have done that. You play for us now or don’t worry about it.
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