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Emotions will run high for players from both sides as Samoa and Cook Islands clash for the first time since a 2009 Pacific Cup qualifier in Cairns.

On that night it was the unfancied Cook Islands side under the coaching of David Fairleigh which sprung a 22-20 upset to qualify for the main draw in Port Moresby, where they had a win over Fiji before losing to PNG in the final.

Samoa went on to participate in the 2013 and 2017 World Cups, reaching the quarter-finals on both occasions, while their most recent Test match appearance in 2019 resulted in a loss to Fiji in Auckland.

With the honour of opening this year's World Cup against England at Newcastle's St James' Park awaiting them in October, Samoa are out to make a statement this weekend and build momentum towards the game's showpiece event.

Cook Islands beat South Africa and the USA in repechage matches to qualify for their third World Cup having been part of the big show in 2000 and 2013, so it's crucial they build some combinations and gain some confidence.

Sportsbet Betting preview: Samoa v Cook Islands

Team News

Samoa

Samoa are 1-17 with no late changes on game day. Coach Matt Parish's squad features Panthers quartet Charlie Staines at fullback, Taylan May on the wing, Izack Tago in the centres and Spencer Leniu on the bench, Sea Eagles pair Josh Schuster and Martin Taupau and Dragons duo Francis Molo and Jaydn Su'A in the pack.

Anthony Milford will call the shots from halfback in his eighth Test match alongside Warrior Chanel Harris-Tavita in his second.

Rabbitohs flyer Jaxson Paulo and Broncos forward Keenan Palasia get their first crack at international football while Fa'amanu Brown's remarkable comeback story continues as he plays his first Test for Samoa since the 2017 World Cup.

Cook Islands

Geoffrey Daniela has come in on the wing on game day with Malachi Morgan out. Tinirau Arona has shifted to hooker and Aaron Teroi goes to the bench. Xavier Willison has gone from lock to prop, Moses Noovao-McGreal goes from the bench to lock and Reuben Porter has been added to the bench. 

Under the guidance of Tony Iro, the squad features three sets of brothers - Esan and Steven Marsters, Reubenn and Vincent Rennie, and Kayal and Andre Iro, the sons of Kiwis and Cook Islands great Kevin Iro. 

Titan Esan Marsters and Warrior Pride Petterson-Robati are the co-captains.

Former Warrior Anthony Gelling will look to add to the eight caps he has earned since debuting back in 2009 in the game in Cairns, which includes two at the 2013 World Cup against the USA and Wales. He slots into the centres alongside Reubenn Rennie.

Team Lists

Backs

  • Fullback for Samoa is number 1 Charlie Staines
    Fullback for Cook Islands is number 1 Kayal Iro
  • Winger for Samoa is number 2 Taylan May
    Winger for Cook Islands is number 2 Steven Marsters
  • Centre for Samoa is number 3 Izack Tago
    Centre for Cook Islands is number 3 Anthony Gelling
  • Centre for Samoa is number 4 Jaxson Paulo
    Centre for Cook Islands is number 4 Reubenn Rennie
  • Winger for Samoa is number 5 David Nofoaluma
    Winger for Cook Islands is number 14 Geoff Daniela
  • Five-Eighth for Samoa is number 6 Chanel Harris-Tavita
    Five-Eighth for Cook Islands is number 6 Esan Marsters
  • Halfback for Samoa is number 7 Anthony Milford
    Halfback for Cook Islands is number 7 Reece Joyce

Forwards

  • Prop for Samoa is number 8 Martin Taupau
    Prop for Cook Islands is number 8 Vincent Rennie
  • Hooker for Samoa is number 9 Jazz Tevaga
    Hooker for Cook Islands is number 10 Tinirau Arona
  • Prop for Samoa is number 10 Francis Molo
    Prop for Cook Islands is number 13 Xavier Willison
  • 2nd Row for Samoa is number 11 Josh Schuster
    2nd Row for Cook Islands is number 11 Brendan Piakura
  • 2nd Row for Samoa is number 12 Jaydn Su'A
    2nd Row for Cook Islands is number 12 Pride Petterson-Robati
  • Lock for Samoa is number 13 Josh Aloiai
    Lock for Cook Islands is number 15 Moses Noovao-McGreal

Interchange

  • Interchange for Samoa is number 14 Fa'amanu Brown
    Interchange for Cook Islands is number 9 Aaron Teroi
  • Interchange for Samoa is number 15 Keenan Palasia
    Interchange for Cook Islands is number 16 Davvy Moale
  • Interchange for Samoa is number 16 Spencer Leniu
    Interchange for Cook Islands is number 17 Makahesi Makatoa
  • Interchange for Samoa is number 17 Bunty Afoa
    Interchange for Cook Islands is number 18 Reuben Porter

Reserves

  • Replacement for Samoa is number 18 Mathew Feagai
    Replacement for Cook Islands is number 19 Brody Tamarua

Match Officials

  • Referee: Peter Gough
  • Touch Judge: Darian Furner
  • Touch Judge: Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski
  • Senior Review Official: Chris Butler

Last updated:

Key match-up

Martin Taupau v Xavier Willison

Taupau has been a regular on the international stage since debuting for Samoa in 2013, having chalked up three Tests for Samoa and 24 for the Kiwis. He will leave nothing in the tank in his bid to get his team across the line and every Cook Islands forward will have to be on high alert for his fearsome charges. At 19 years of age and three games into his NRL career, young Bronco Willison gets a perfect opportunity to match motors with one of the game's elite props on a big stage. The forward battle is sure to be willing and the inexperienced Cook Islands outfit are sure to have their hands full with the likes of Taupau, Josh Aloiai and Jaydn Su'A, but if Willison can hold his own in the early exchanges he could be in for a night to remember.

Stat attack

David Nofoaluma ran for 157 metres and had an astonishing 12 tackle breaks in Samoa's 18-6 win over Papua New Guinea at Leichhardt Oval in June, 2019. The Wests Tigers flyer enoyed the familiar turf of Leichhardt and he'll have the same 'home ground advantage' on Saturday at Campbelltown, where he ran for 150 metres in the Tigers' last home game against Manly.

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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