Samoa have been given a welcome boost ahead of their historic Rugby League World Cup semi-final against host nation England after successfully appealing a judiciary charge, but they've also been dealt a heavy blow with two players ruled out for the remainder of the tournament through injury.
Captain Junior Paulo looked set to miss the all-important encounter after he was charged with Grade A Striking for an incident in the second half of Samoa's quarter-final win over local rivals Tonga. The 28-year-old raised his forearm while in possession, making incidental contact with the throat of Tongan star David Fifita.
With little to lose, Samoa were always going to challenge the charge and after a brief hearing on Tuesday night local time, Paulo was told he was free to play.
Both ISAAC TAGO & SPENCER LENIU have had their World Cup campaigns cut short due to nagging shoulder injuries. There’s no suggestion either will require off-season shoulder surgery or that they will miss the start of the Panthers 2023 title defence. #PantherPride pic.twitter.com/L7i2Bqunn2
— Peter Lang (@PeterVLang) November 8, 2022
The news will come as a relief to the Samoan side, who have been dealt a double blow by the confirmed withdrawal of premiership winners Izack Tago and Spencer Leniu, as reported by local Penrith journalist Peter Lang.
The duo are reportedly both suffering ongoing shoulder issues that have already impacted their roles at the World Cup. Tago hasn't taken the field since the tournament opener against England, while Leniu played the opener and the third group stage game against France.
Samoa have already shown they have enough depth to cover the absences, with former NRL centre Tim Lafai filling in at centre and a raft of capable front-row talent to call upon in place of Leniu.
Thankfully for Panthers fans, it appears that neither of them will require surgery or any significant time off, with both expected to be ready for the Panthers' opening-round clash against Brisbane in 2023.
It's a disappointing end for the duo, who both enjoyed significant increases in profile this year after impressive NRL campaigns.