Toa Samoa have confirmed that Auckland-born Ligi Sao will replace Luciano Leilua as a member of the Pacific nation's World Cup squad. Leilua was stood down after being arrested and charged with domestic violence-related offences that occurred in south-western Sydney.
Leilua was at the airport preparing to leave for the tournament with his Samoan teammates before he was advised that he'd need to remain in Sydney.
The Cowboys back-rower has since used his lawyer to speak on the matter, confirming he will be defending himself against the charges and his complete opposition to ‘violence of any type'.
Despite his claims of innocence, it was confirmed in the days following his arrest that Leilua would be stood down under the NRL's no-fault stand-down policy despite the minimum sentence not meeting previously established criteria.
The NRL currently has the discretion to enforce the policy outside of the standard requirements.
Leilua is expected to attend court on October 11, four days before the tournament starts, effectively ruling him out of the tournament anyway.
Now the team has confirmed the inclusion of Sao, who has formerly played for Manly and the Warriors. He made his debut for the Sea Eagles in 2013, but only reached double-digit appearances in two of his six seasons in the NRL.
He then moved to the Super League and has enjoyed a successful three-year stint as a front-row mainstay for Hull FC.
Samoa kick off their World Cup against host nation England in the tournament opener at St James' Park on October 16 (October 17 AEDT).
I don’t know which is the more shameful: the NRL suspending Leilua for (being accused of) an offence which carries a maximum two-year sentence, or the NRLPA for meekly accepting it.
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