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Leota open to Kiwis but Panthers pact may keep him with Samoa

Moses Leota hasn't closed the door on playing for the Kiwis but a pact with some Panthers teammates is likely to mean he stays with Samoa for the World Cup in November.

Born in New Zealand, he is on the radar of Kiwis coach Michael Maguire but the No.1-ranked nation is yet to approach the Panthers forward about wearing the black jersey.

The Panthers have a strong Samoan contingent, including Stephen Crichton and Jarome Luai, who have all talked about playing alongside each other for the tier-two nation this season.

Leota could do the same alongside front-row partner James Fisher-Harris and live out a childhood dream.

Although the Kiwis may come calling at some point in the season, Leota's only international appearance has been for Samoa, in 2019.

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"Growing up I didn't get to represent the Kiwis so it's something I'd definitely consider it if I got the chance," Leota told NRL.com.

"I supported the All Blacks and Kiwis as a kid, I was always a Kiwis man, but I haven't heard from them and I'm thinking about Samoa because that's where I've played and I've really liked it.

"A lot of the boys want to do what Tonga did and it would be hard to play against them but if the Kiwis came up it's something I would have to think about and see how it plays out."

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Leota has taken his opportunities in the opening month of the Telstra Premiership after replacing James Tamou in the starting side this year to help the side to a 4-0 start to the season.

A clash against the Raiders awaits for the 25-year-old forward and more importantly, against a Raiders pack that boasts Kangaroos enforcer Josh Papalii – who also donned the Samoan blue jersey on four occasions.

"It will be a tough test and hard to contain them," Leota said.

"We've spoken about being ruthless at the start of the pre-season and just taking each game as it comes by treating every opposition with the same respect, no matter how high they are on the ladder."

Asked how the Panthers have been able to pick up where they left off after last year's heroics, Leota said the club's quality of depth had finally come through to shine.

"It's just all the boys buying in with what we have here. We've always known we've had good juniors but we never used them as well as we are now," Leota said.

"The staff that we have when Ivan [Cleary] came back, they've been driving that and the boys buy into that.

"It's pretty good, the boys are happy. Every time you win everything falls into place."