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Panthers coach among new faces in Samoa set-up

Panthers assistant coach Andrew Webster, former Leeds mentor Richard Agar and former Toa Samoa captain Frank Pritchard will join Matt Parish's staff for the upcoming Pacific Test and World Cup campaigns

Samoa, who face Cook Islands in the Pacific Test double-header at Campbelltown on June 25 ahead of the World Cup opener against England at St James Park on October 15, will again be led by Parish, with Webster and Agar joining Geoff Toovey on his coaching staff.

Pritchard, who played eight Tests for Samoa and 256 NRL matches for Penrith, Canterbury and Parramatta, has also joined the staff.

Sea Eagles athletic performance specialist Rubin Ruzicka (strength and conditioning), former Dragons coach Andrew Farrar (team manager) and former dual code star Fereti Tuilagi (culture manager) have been appointed for the Pacific Test and end-of-season World Cup.

Panthers assistant Andrew Webster has joined the Toa Samoa coaching staff
Panthers assistant Andrew Webster has joined the Toa Samoa coaching staff ©NRL Panthers

Webster is considered one of the best young coaches in the game and was a key member of the Penrith coaching staff that oversaw last year’s NRL premiership winning team under Ivan Cleary.

Highly regarded at the Panthers, Webster will focus on Samoa’s attacking structures and is expected to continue working closely with the likes of Jarome Luai, Brian To’o, Stephen Crichton, Moses Leota, Spencer Leniu, Izack Tago and Taylan May at the World Cup.

The Panthers stars posed with the Samoa flag and the Provan-Summons Trophy after last year's grand final triumph over South Sydney.

Penrith's Samoan connection celebrate after their 2021 premiership win
Penrith's Samoan connection celebrate after their 2021 premiership win ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

Agar, who led Leeds to the 2020 Challenge Cup but recently stepped down from the role, has extensive experience of the game in England, where he has also coached Wakefield and Hull FC.

His knowledge will be invaluable when preparing for Samoa's games against England, Greece and France in the World Cup.

“One of the critical parts of preparing teams, particularly representative teams, is providing the best environment for them to be successful," Parish said.

"Toa Samoa has an incredibly strong and talented playing squad.

"The high-performance environment and culture we create for the players will, at a minimum, replicate what the players are used to at club level, and we will work with the NRL, the clubs and RLWC2021 to ensure our players have all they need to prepare themselves.

"Our focus is ensuring we look after the players both from a physical performance perspective, and a cultural and wellbeing perspective. Our staff are all focussed on this and will work together with the players to build a successful campaign both on and off the field.”

Richard Agar took Leeds to Challenge Cup glory in 2020
Richard Agar took Leeds to Challenge Cup glory in 2020 ©Photo Sport

Toovey, the former Manly Sea Eagles and Bradford Bulls head coach and NRL premiership winning player said: "I'm excited about the opportunity to be involved with the best players in the game and also to be working with Matt again".

Rugby League Samoa president Tagaloa Faafouina Su'a said the announcement would end speculation about the nation’s coaching for the Pacific Test and World Cup.

Former Toa Samoa captain Frank Pritchard will bring his experience to the Pacific Test and World Cup campaigns
Former Toa Samoa captain Frank Pritchard will bring his experience to the Pacific Test and World Cup campaigns ©NRL Photos

"The board and executive of RL Samoa are mindful of the media speculation and subsequent concerns from our fans on issues surrounding our staff," Su'a said.

"Recent media commentary has speculated on the interest in coaching Toa Samoa by several individuals but, let me be clear, as of now, we have not sort or received any official interest or approaches from any of these parties. 

"We are confident in the players and staff we have and urge our nation and our fans to continue to show your support and offer your prayers."

Tickets for the 2022 Pacific Test at Campbelltown Stadium will be on sale on Tuesday, May 17. Tickets will be available from $10 for adults, $5 for juniors and $25 for families.

The 2022 Pacific Test will be broadcast live on the Nine Network and Fox Sports.

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