Topic: Rugby League

Warriors set to butt heads in Kiwis v Samoa match

By Eru Paranihi
  • Auckland

National pride isn't the only thing at stake this weekend when the Kiwis open their Rugby League World Cup campaign against the Toa Samoa team.

Eight Warriors players will turn out at Mount Smart Stadium for their respective nations, which promises to be an epic battle.

Those players are Simon Mannering, Shaun Johnson, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, and Adam Blair – who has signed for 2018 – will represent the Kiwis, while Ken Maumalo, Sam Lisone, Jazz Tevaga, and Bunty Afoa will turn out for the Toa.

It's the fixture that many of the Warriors boys from both sides have been looking forward to.

Says Tuivasa-Sheck, “I've been here when it's been packed out in our first couple games. So just to have a lot more people turn up, it's going to be a great experience.”

“It's been a long time, and it'll be cool. It's such a great ground for Rugby league,” says Mannering.

It’s a different prospect for the ‘Toa Warriros’, as they will run out on to Mount Smart stadium as the opposition. Bother are more excited, than daunted.

Says Maumalo, “I guess it's going to be more exciting going back to my old club with different colours.”

“I used to watch the Kiwis v Samoa and I'm finally wearing the jumper for Samoa, and I'm proud to be Samoan. To go up against the haka is going to be a special moment for me,” says Afoa

As well as the Warriors rivalry, a key matchup is between Waikato-Taunui winger Jordan Rapana, and explosive centre BJ Leilua. Both are teammates in the Canberra Raiders squad, but are enemies on Saturday night.

Says Tuicasa-Sheck, “Getting tips off him, and just getting in his ear and sort of trying to distract him from the game, and getting numbers around him, because we know what he's like.”

The last time the Kiwis played Samoa was in 2014. The island nation nearly pulled off the upset of the Four Nations tournament when they went down 14 -12 in Whangarei.

“Samoa they've got a lot of former NRL players, and a lot experienced players in their team. We've got to make sure we're getting our stuff right and to make sure we don't take a backward step against Samoa,” says Tuivasa-Sheck.

A win for the Kiwis this weekend will send a statement to the rest of Pool B. A loss however, will put them on the back foot.