Toa Samoa boast biggest contingent of World Cup stars in NRL grand final

Published by Brad Walter, IntRL
27 Sep 2022

Toa Samoa will have the largest representation of World Cup players in this weekend's NRL grand final after unveiling a star-studded squad that includes six Penrith Panthers and two members of the Parramatta Eels team.

Panthers five-eighth Jarome Luai, centres Stephen Crichton and Izack Tago, and wingers Brian To'o and Tyrone May headline a backline brimming with State of Origin and grand final experience, which also includes 2021 premiership winner Tyrone May.

Eels prop Junior Paulo and interchange forward Oregon Kaufusi, along with Penrith's frontrower Spencer Leniu, take the number of Samoan players in the grand final to eight, although Taylan May has been ruled out with a hamstring injury.

Photo: NSW Origin stars Jarome Luai and Brian To'o are among six Panthers in the Samoa squad (NRL Photos)

In comparison, there are unlikely to be more than six players from the grand final teams chosen for the Kangaroos - Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary, lock Isaah Yeo and second-rower Liam Martin, along with Eels forwards Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Shaun Lane.

Rival fullbacks Dylan Edwards and Clint Gutherson may also be vying for a spot as back up to James Tedesco, while Penrith hooker Api Koroisau is expected to join team-mate Viliame Kikau and Eels wingers Maika Sivo and Waqa Blake in the Fiji Bati team.

World Cup Squads: Men's, Women's, Wheelchair

The Kiwis are also strongly represented, with Penrith props James Fisher-Harris and Moses Leota and Eels five-eighth Dylan Brown, centre Bailey Simonsson and forwards Marata Niukore and Isaiah Papali'i named in an extended squad.

Samoa were the first Pacific nation to publicly unveil their squad for the tournament and the depth of talent among the 24 players chosen by coach Matt Parish will have England on notice for the opening game on October 15 at Newcastle's St James Park.

Paulo, Luai, To'o and Crichton were members of this year's NSW Origin team, while Canberra Raiders prop Josh Papalii played for Queensland.

Sydney Roosters teen sensation Joseph Suaalii was also member of the Blues squad, while North Queensland Cowboys speedster Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow played for the Maroons in the 2021 Origin series.

Huddersfield hooker Danny Levi is one of two Super League players in the squad, along with Catalans playmaker Tyrone May. Levi is expected to share the dummy half duties with Wests Tigers utility Fa'amanu Brown.

Luai, May, Newcastle's Anthony Milford and Warriors playmaker Chanel Harris-Tavita provide depth in the halves, while Samoa will field one of the strongest forward packs at the World Cup.

Photo: Sydney Roosters teen sensation Joseph Suaalii will make his international debut for Samoa (NRL Photos)

Besides Paulo and Papalii, the front-row stocks include Manly pair Martin Taupa'u and Josh Aloiai, Cronulla's Braden Hamlin-Uele and Royce Hunt, Leniu and Kaufusi.

The second-rowers include Cowboys ball-playing back-rower Luciano Leilua, St George Illawarra's Jaydn Su'a and Wests Tigers rookie Kelma Tuilagi.

Samoa meet England in the opening match of the World Cup at Newcastle's St James Park on October 15 before taking on Greece at Doncaster on October 23 and France at Warrington on October 30 in their remaining pool matches.

Toa Samoa

  • Josh Aloiai (Manly Warringah Sea Eagles)
  • Fa'amanu Brown (Wests Tigers)
  • Stephen Crichton (Penrith Panthers)
  • Mathew Feagai (St George-Illawarra Dragons)
  • Braden Hamlin-Uele (Cronulla Sharks)
  • Chanel Harris-Tavita (Warriors)
  • Royce Hunt (Cronulla Sharks)
  • Oregon Kaufusi (Parramatta Eels)
  • Luciano Leilua (North Queensland Cowboys)
  • Spencer Leniu (Penrith Panthers)
  • Danny Levi (Huddersfield Giants)
  • Jarome Luai (Penrith Panthers)
  • Taylan May (Penrith Panthers)
  • Tyrone May (Catalans Dragons)
  • Anthony Milford (Newcastle Knights)
  • Josh Papalii (Canberra Raiders)
  • Junior Paulo (Parramatta Eels)
  • Jaydn Su’a (St George-Illawarra Dragons)
  • Joseph Suaalii (Sydney Roosters)
  • Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow (North Queensland Cowboys)
  • Izack Tago (Penrith Panthers)
  • Martin Taupa'u (Manly Warringah Sea Eagles)
  • Brian To’o (Penrith Panthers)
  • Kelma Tuilagi (Wests Tigers)