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Panthers quartet among new faces in Samoa squad

Penrith stars Izack Tago, Taylan May, Charlie Staines and Spencer Leniu feature in a strong and exciting Toa Samoa squad named for the upcoming Pacific Test against Cook Islands at Campbelltown Sports Stadium.

Samoa coach Matt Parish has chosen a 20-man squad for the June 25 Test but decided not to include any of the Pacific nation’s eligible players who were involved in last week’s opening State of Origin as he did not want to put unnecessary pressure on them.

Players who are eligible for NSW or Queensland, as well as Samoa, can play Origin and still represent their heritage at the end-of-season World Cup in England.

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

“We are proud of all players with Samoan heritage who are playing in all teams in the upcoming Representative Round,” Parish said.

“Out of respect to the players involved in State of Origin, we did not consider any player chosen in the NSW or Queensland squads for Game I.

"However, if they were to become available for the Pacific Test we would consider late changes to include them.”

The Toa Samoa squad for the Pacific Test against Cook Islands
The Toa Samoa squad for the Pacific Test against Cook Islands ©NRL Graphics

The move has created opportunities for other players to represent Samoa and highlights the depth of talent likely to be available to Parish and his coaching staff at the World Cup.

Tago, May, Staines and Leniu are among the players set to make their Test debuts for Samoa, along with Manly’s Josh Schuster and Toafofoa Sipley, and St George Illawarra’s Francis Molo and Matt Feagai.

Warriors playmakers Chanel Harris-Tavita and Ronald Volkman, South Sydney’s Jaxson Paulo and Brisbane forward Keenan Palasia are other new faces in the Samoa squad.

They will be joined by experienced forwards Martin Taupau, Josh Aloiai, Jaydn Su’A, Jazz Tevaga, Bunty Afoa and Luciano Leilua, Wests Tigers winger David Nofoaluma and Knights playmaker Anthony Milford.

Manly prop Martin Taupau is one of the familiar faces in the Samoa squad
Manly prop Martin Taupau is one of the familiar faces in the Samoa squad ©NRL Photos

The international game has been put on hold in the Southern Hemisphere since the outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020 and Parish said it was exciting for Samoa to again be involving in the Pacific Test.

To underline the significance of the Test, assistant coach Richard Agar and cultural and wellbeing manager Fereti Tuilagi will travel from England to join the squad in camp next week.

Agar, Panthers assistant coach Andrew Webster and former Samoa captain Frank Pritchard were recently appointed to join Parish’s coaching staff ahead of the World Cup.

Samoa have not played since 2019 due to COVID-19
Samoa have not played since 2019 due to COVID-19 ©NRL Photos

Samoa have also announced a new sponsorship with PacifiCast ahead of the Pacific Test.

“We are extremely honoured and proud to partner with Rugby League Samoa,” PacifiCast director  Julius Tuigamala said.

“We look forward to contributing commercial support and strategic guidance. PacifiCast connects the global Pasifika community through sport, music, arts and cultural events. PacifiCast opens a new lens to the Pacific."

Toa Samoa

  • Anthony Milford (Newcastle Knights)
  • Bunty Afoa (Warriors)
  • Fa'amanu Brown (Wests Tigers)
  • Chanel Harris-Tavita (Warriors)
  • Charlie Staines (Penrith Panthers)
  • David Nofoaluma (Wests Tigers)
  • Francis Molo (St. George-Illawarra Dragons)
  • Izack Tago (Penrith Panthers)
  • Jaxson Paulo (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
  • Jaydn Su’a (St. George-Illawarra Dragons)
  • Jazz Tevaga (Warriors)
  • Josh Aloiai (Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles)
  • Josh Schuster (Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles)
  • Keenan Palasia (Brisbane Broncos)
  • Luciano Leilua (North Queensland Cowboys)
  • Martin Taupau (Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles)
  • Mathew Feagai (St. George-Illawarra Dragons)
  • Ronald Volkman (Warriors)
  • Spencer Leniu (Penrith Panthers)
  • Taylan May (Penrith Panthers)
  • Toafofoa Sipley (Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles)

The Pacific Test brings together the pride and passion of the Cook Islands, Fiji, PNG and Samoa in a double-header at Campbelltown Sports Stadium on Saturday, June 25. Get your tickets here. 

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