Leilua provides Jennings' motivation
Exhilarating Australian centre Michael Jennings is set to take an 'anything you can do, I can do better' approach when he faces off against blockbusting Samoan star Joey Leilua this weekend.
Leilua has been one of Toa Samoa's shining lights throughout the Four Nations tournament and was arguably best on ground against New Zealand with an explosive 80-minute effort. But Jennings himself has been quietly getting the job done without creating headlines, and was one of his side's best against England last week.
With the Newcastle centre a constant threat out wide for Samoa having broken 17 tackles so far in the tournament, Jennings has gone even better – racking up a ridiculous 19 tackle breaks in two Tests.
Having shaped up against Leilua plenty of times in the NRL, Jennings said his motivation to succeed for the Kangaroos will shine through when he shapes up against the form Leilua has recently been displaying.
"[Leilua's] big, strong and fast and you have to really be on your game to really stop him," Jennings said.
"Respect where it's due, he's been playing some quality football and obviously it motivates me even more [to play better]... and show the coaching staff that I belong in this arena.
"There's a massive task... ahead of me but I just need to focus on what I need to do for the team and what I bring to the side."
Jennings couldn't deny Leilua and Toa Samoa have been impressing plenty in rugby league circles with their amazing form to only just be edged by the Kiwis and England over the past fortnight.
The Roosters centre – who played for Tonga at the 2008 World Cup – said while it may make things harder for Australia in the coming years, Samoa's form is certainly a positive for minnow rugby league nations moving forward.
"Players of Samoan background may now... want to play for their country and want to play for Samoa. I think it is a massive achievement what they have already done in this tournament," Jennings said.
"I think Frank Pritchard did a good thing leaving the Kiwis just so he could play for Samoa so it is a massive step for rugby league. It's amazing how far they have come."
With Samoa set to constantly threaten the Kangaroos as they continue their establishment as one of rugby league's international forces, Jennings said Australia just needs to worry about their own backyard.
"Our main focus is just to win this week," Jennings said. "That's all we can control and all we have control over really so the main focus this week is training towards what we have to do to win this week."
With England and New Zealand meeting on Saturday, Australia will know more about what they need to do against Samoa in order to make the tournament final. But regardless of the result on Saturday, the Aussies will need at least a win against an impressive Toa Samoa to advance.