The Newcastle Knights have revealed why prop Pasami Paulo had to give up his spot for the Maori All Stars this Saturday evening, confirming he recently contracted COVID.
Saulo has been around the fringes of the Knights squad since he made his debut in the NRL during the 2018 season.
To date, he has played 16 NRL games, but only made three appearances during the 2021 season as head coach Adam O'Brien went with other options on a regular basis behind a stacked front-row starting rotation of David Klemmer, Daniel Saifiti and Jacob Saifiti.
Saulo is contracted with the Knights until the end of this season and could have used the All Stars clash as another opportunity to push his claim for a contract extension in the Hunter, or elsewhere.
It would have been Saulo's second match for the Maori side, having represented them last year.
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A statement from the club confirmed Saulo was "gutted" by the news.
"Saulo had been in isolation after recently contracting COVID, unfortunately preventing the exciting young Knights forward from representing his heritage and culture for the second time this Saturday night.
"The Maitland Pumpkin Pickers junior is “gutted” by the news, vowing to return to Knights training shortly with eyes firmly set on the Knights upcoming trials."
The All Stars clash is down signficantly on man power, with Alex Johnston and Jack Bird also pulling out in the days leading up to the match, while the likes of Kalyn Ponga and Jack Wighton made their intentions to pull out clear in the week leading up to the original squads being named.
The match between the Indigenous and Maori side will be played on Saturday evening at CommBank Stadium in Parramatta, with kick-off scheduled for 8:10pm (AEDT).