By John Davidson, Date: 29/10/14
New Zealand can book a spot in the Four Nations final with a victory over traditional rivals Samoa at Toll Stadium.
Whangarei will host its first rugby league international on Saturday at Toll Stadium, a ground with a capacity of 30,000. It should witness a full-blooded encounter as many of the Kiwi players have Samoan heritage and many of the Samoan players were born in New Zealand.
The air of familiarity and common ground should make for a proper battle.
Toa Samoa were exciting and enthralling against England, but ultimately fell six points short. And it doesn’t get any easier this weekend.
New Zealand was impressive against Australia and know that they will have one foot in the final, before they play England, if they can dispose of their Pacific Island neighbours first.
Matt Parish has recalled Sauaso Sue for the Kiwi game, who was one of three players banned for a nightclub incident, and has brought in Bulldogs centre Tum Lafai. Rikcy Leutele has been dropped to make way for Lafai.
Wakefield utility Pita Godinet has been rewarded for his two-try effort against England with the starting hooker’s jersey, while Warriors prop Isaac Liu will also start. Dumanis Lui also comes on to the Samoan bench.
Samoa surprised the Poms with their offloading, their unpredictability in attack and their physical presence. New Zealand will be duly prepared for it.
These two teams know each other well, as most of their players ply their trade in the NRL, and more than half of the Samoan 17 were born and grew up in the Land of the Long White Cloud.
On the flipside, the Kiwis have their own links to Toa Samoa. Prop Suaia Matagi played in four World Cup matches for Samoa last year but will make his debut for New Zealand in this match.
Stephen Kearney has rung the changes to keep his team fresh. Isaac Luke comes back in at hooker and Thomas Leuluai is out of the 17. Experienced flyer Manu Vatuvei gets the nod over Gerard Beale while Matagi has been selected over Greg Eastwood.
It’s a strong Kiwi outfit that will take some beating. The difference between the two teams is in the halves and Samoa will need to tackle out of their skins to keep the men in black at bay.
If New Zealand bring the sort of form they demonstrated against Australia on Saturday into this match, it could get very ugly for the Samoans.
New Zealand 2014 Rugby League Team Line-up:
11-Simon Mannering (captain)
Head coach: Stephen Kearney
Samoa 2014 Rugby League Four Nations Team Line-up:
1. Tim Simona
2. Antonio Winterstein
3. Tim Lafai
4. Joey Leilua
5. Daniel Vidot
6. Ben Roberts
7. Kyle Stanley
8. Isaac Liu
9. Pita Godinet
10. David Fa’alogo (c)
11. Frank Pritchard
12. Leeson Ah Mau
13. Josh McGuire
14. Dunamis Lui
15. Jesse Sene-Lefao
16. Sauaso Sue
17. Mose Masoe
18. Dominique Peyroux
19. Penani Manumalealii
Head coach: Matt Parish