With all the fanfare and hype of the naming of the Australian Test side, it is easy to forget there is some Rugby League Test action this weekend.
In a special treat for rugby league fans needing a fix after last weekend’s Grand Final, Samoa welcome Fiji to Apia for a Pacific Test match.
In fact, it is Samoa’s first Test on home soil, so it should be a massive event for the Pacific nation, and burgeoning Test rugby league team.
Best of all, it is live on Fox Sports in Australia and Sky Sports in New Zealand!
It is a welcome addition for many of those fans who can’t get enough of Pacific Tests after the taster of the double header in International week in May. The fact that this game has been put together is a good sign we might soon see a regular series between all the Pacific nations every year. Perhaps as an alternative game on a State of Origin standalone weekend.
The powers that be who changed the eligibility rules to allow players to represent a tier-two nation and still play State of Origin speaks for the governing body wanting the Pacific nations to be as strong as possible. A good thing the looming World Cup in 2017. A great thing for these Pacific nations.
Both teams have a great mixture of well known NRL stars, fringe NRL hopefuls and names you may not know, but soon could.
That is the one of the great facets to these Pacific Tests, to unearth the potential next superstar.
Sam Kasiano headlines the Samoan side, and he has been a big factor in their recent Pacific Tests against Tonga, and will no doubt be a fan’s favourite as well as very hard to stop. There’s also plenty of firepower from NRL players Junior Paulo, Tim Lafai, Leeson Ah Mau. They have the edge when it comes to NRL experience. But as PNG proved against Fiji in May, NRL experience is not everything.
That’s not to say that Fiji are lacking in big game experience. They have Apisai Koroisau, Kane Evans, Korbin Sims, Waqa Blake and Tigers excitement machine Kevin Naiqama amongst others.
Both sides have a good mix of Holden Cup players, in addition to those in the respective state’s Intrust Competitions.
Instead of the obvious players to watch from both sides, our names to look out for are ones for the future.
Fiji’s man to keep an eye on is Viliame Kikau. The former Cowboys under 20 star was signed by Penrith for 2016, but had yet to make his debut for the Panthers. He was RLPA NYC player of the year in 2015, as well as the prop of the year. 32 tries in 42 games in the Holden Cup is a very decent return for a forward. At 196cm and 114kg he should almost as hard to handle as Kasiano. He has a great stage to press his claims for the NRL next season.
Also a forward but not quite as big but with equal potential is Samoa’s Bunty Afoa. The former Warriors junior player of the year stepped up to the top grade and looked good in his three games. Nabbing two tries. Like Kikau, this match provides a great scenario for him to press his claims to lead the Warriors out of the doldrums in 2017.
It should be another great Pacific Nation head to head, and a welcome off season bonus if you’re lucky enough to have Fox Sports.
TV COVERAGE DETAILS
LIVE – Fox Sports Red Button (Ch507) 1:30pm (Sydney)
REPLAY – Fox Sports 3 7:30pm (Sydney)
LIVE – Sky Sports NZ (Ch056HD) 3:30pm (NZ)
HEAD TO HEAD
2006 – Samoa 30 Fiji 28 @ Campbelltown
2013 – Fiji 22 Samoa 4 @ Warrington
Sam Kasiano, Kaysa Pritchard, Denny Solomona, Junior Paulo, Sauaso Sue, Timoteo Lafai, Pita Godinet, Matthew Wright, David Nofoaluma, Mason Lino, Ken Maumalo, Leeson Ah Mau, Raymond Faitala-Mariner, Sam Lisone, James Gavet, Bunty Afoa, Erin Clark
1. Kevin Naiqama 2. Tyrone Phillips 3. Waqa Blake 4. Brayden Wiliame 5. Marcelo Montoya 6. Sitiveni Moceidreke 7. Henry Raiwalui 8. Vitale Jr Roqica 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. Kane Evans 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Eloni Vunakece 13. Korbin Sims Interchange: 14. Tui Kamikamica 15. Ben Nakubuwai 16. Pio Seci 17. James Storer 18. Saimoni Lomaloma
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