Lisone eyes home World Cup debut
He has no idea which country he will be representing at the Rugby League World Cup 2017, but right now Sam Lisone is just ecstatic to know he will have the chance to play on home soil.
Eligible for Toa Samoa – who he played for in the 2015 Pacific Test – as well as the Kiwis, Lisone will have the opportunity to play in front of his family and friends if selected for either side, with both nations drawn to play Pool A matches in New Zealand.
Speaking after the RLWC 2017 draw announcement in Auckland this week, Lisone told NRL.com of his hopes for the tournament, which will be held at the end of next season.
"It's exciting as, even though I don't know who I will be playing for," he said.
"My heart is set on playing for New Zealand, that is my ultimate goal, but whatever happens I'm available for both nations.
"I played for Samoa last year and that was one of the best experiences of my life so far.
"Either way it would be really cool to play a Test in front of family and friends, this is where everyone is and my mum and dad could come and watch.
"I wouldn't be surprised to see it packed out a few times given Samoa and Tonga are playing in NZ too. We have lots of hearty islanders here."
New Zealand and Samoa will open their respective tournament campaigns when they meet at Mt Smart Stadium on October 28, while the Pacific clash between Samoa and Tonga in Hamilton will be among the most anticipated pool matches across the whole tournament.
Kiwi international fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, who was born in Samoa but raised in New Zealand, believed the country would relish the opportunity to have the two Pacific nations playing alongside New Zealand and Scotland in Pool A.
"I reckon [it's going to be] massive, just massive, especially the opening game between Samoa and New Zealand in Auckland, I feel like that will be a huge game," Tuivasa-Sheck said.
"You can never shy away from Samoa vs Tonga as well, that's always a great battle and I can't wait for that game."
Meanwhile former Kangaroo Steve Price, who still lives in New Zealand following a stint with the Warriors at the end of his NRL Telstra Premiership career, said the continued improvement of Pacific Island sides meant fans would be in for some high-quality action, regardless of the match-up.
"We have seen that improvement in the Four Nations over the last couple of years with Samoa," Price said.
"There are a lot more games played between World Cup tournaments for them now, a lot more players playing at higher levels both in the Super League and NRL, and getting that exposure being coached by very good coaches, playing against very good players and playing with good players.
"The development is so different to what it was 10 years ago, which is very exciting for the local game."
The Rugby League World Cup 2017 will see pool games played across Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, with the final set for Suncorp Stadium.