By John Davidson, (RLP RLWC Correspondent) Date: 26/10/13
New Zealand gets its World Cup defense off with a difficult encounter against Pacific neighbours Samoa in Warrington.
The Halliwell Jones Stadium is the setting for this engaging clash, a kind of New Zealand A vs New Zealand B match-up.
Samoa and New Zealand are two countries with close links, none more so in their playing squads.
Kiwi star Sonny Bill Williams has Samoan heritage, along with other New Zealand players Sam Kasiano, Ben Matulino, Frank-Paul Nu’uausala, Frank Pritchard and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
And in the Samoan side many of its members were born and raised in New Zealand and have even represented the Kiwis before, such as Ben Roberts and David Fa’alogo. This should add some spice to what already promises to be a fiery battle.
Both teams have some heavy-hitters, huge forwards and powerful runners. But have skillful playmakers and creative minds, and relish the contact, meaning this will be an incredibly physical and entertaining 80 minutes of footy. Expect tries and big hits galore.
Warrington could not be a better location for this match. It is a passionate rugby league two situated between Manchester and Liverpool.
Home to Super League’s Warrington Wolves, one of the biggest clubs in the English competition, the Halliwell Jones Stadium is an intimate ground known for its great atmosphere. The capacity is just 15,200 and organisers are expecting a sellout for this game.
Many will be coming to see that rugby league icon Sonny Bill Williams in the flesh.
Warrington people love their league and they will be flocking to see the multi-sport superstar strut his stuff. The town is hosting two games, New Zealand vs Samoa and one of the quarter-finals, but it is boasting a World Cup atmosphere for the whole six weeks as the Samoan side is basing itself there for the duration of the tournament.
The excitement in the town about the World Cup is palpable. Events of Kiwi and Samoan dances, as well as traditional ceremonies, have been taking place this week as Warrington builds up a festival feel to this match.
Local newspaper the Warrington Guardian has been giving the World Cup quality coverage and pubs like The King’s Head will be rammed on Sunday with fans of both teams.
On the field, Samoa came into this game after being smashed by England Knights and without Roy Asotasi and Steve Matai, as well as potentially skipper Harrison Hansen. Their confidence will be low and they know they will have to be at their very best against the world champions.
New Zealand are coming off a heavy dismantling of the Cook Islands and will be keen to make a statement after Australia’s opening win in Cardiff. They have perhaps the best Kiwi team ever, with monstrous forwards, talented backs and classy halves Kieran Foran and Shaun Johnson. You throw the X-factor that is Sonny Bill into the mix and this is an exceedingly formidable outfit.
New Zealand are motivated to go all the way again and I expect them to outgun the Samoans where it counts. My tip is for the men in black to win by at least 20 points, with the Samoan defence to be vital in having any chance of stopping the Kiwi juggernaut.
New Zealand: Jesse Bromwich, Greg Eastwood, Kieran Foran, Bryson Goodwin, Josh Hoffman, Shaun Johnson, Sam Kasiano, Issac Luke, Simon Mannering, Ben Matulino, Sam Moa, Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Frank Pritchard, Elijah Taylor, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Manu Vatuvei, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Dean Whare and Sonny Bill Williams
Samoa: Leeson Ah Mau, David Faalogo, Pita Godinet, Harrison Hansen, Joseph Leilua, Reni Maitua, Penani Manumaleaii, Mose Masoe, Suai Matagi, Anthony Milford, Junior Sau’u, Iosia Soliola, Sauaso Sue, Mark Taufua, Daniel Vidot, Anthony Winterstein, Frank Winterstein.