Josh Papali’i could play for Toa Samoa

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Josh Papali’i.

Josh Papali’i.

Toa Samoa could have Josh Papali’i in their Rugby League World Cup squad.

Papalii is eligible to play for Samoa after he was axed from the Australian Kangaroos squad.

And he could join a long list of Raiders lining up for second-tier countries despite their Australian absence.

Junior Paulo and Joey Leilua are set to play for Samoa, but Sia Soliola has been ruled out after having elbow surgery.

The Canberra Times reports that that leaves Papalii, who is eligible to play for Samoa under World Cup rules after Australian coach Mal Meninga left him out of the Kangaroos squad.

It's understood Samoa would be keen to have Papalii in the team, but his availability will depend on several factors falling into place in the next 48 hours.

Papalii has played eight Tests for Australia, but withdrew from the Prime Minister's XIII two weeks ago after the death of his grandfather.

Papalii's parents are Samoan and he was keen to represent family heritage at the World Cup in 2013 before he forced his way into the Australian squad.

"To play for Samoa is more than playing for your country, it's about playing for the kids who don't even get an opportunity," Papalii said four years ago.

Papalii could help Samoa be a genuine finals contender after Taumalolo dropped a bombshell by quitting New Zealand's campaign to join Tonga.

Samoa, Tonga and New Zealand are in pool B alongside Scotland. New Zealand are the No. 2 side in the world, but their campaign is in tatters after the powerhouse Taumalolo withdrew.

Rapana and Tapine are likely to be named in coach David Kidwell's squad but the Kiwis now face a massive challenge in the group stage.

Campese is set for a Canberra Stadium farewell almost a decade after he played for Australia at the World Cup in 2008 and three years after he left the Raiders.

Italy is also set to swoop on overlooked fullback James Tedesco to bolster its squad for games against Fiji and the United States.

"If you want to develop rugby league and get it up there with rugby union on an international level, you need the best players," Campese said.

"It's good for the second-tier countries to have guys like Tedesco and Papalii. It helps develop the countries and hopefully it becomes successful and encourages more to play the game.

"I'm not sure what [Papalii] is going to do, but I'm glad we don't play against Samoa because I wouldn't want to run into him.

"I think he was unlucky not to be in the Australian squad, but everyone wants to be involved in the World Cup. I know he's very proud of his Samoan heritage and he'd be a massive boost for them if he put that blue jumper on."

Canberra Stadium will host three games, including Italy's clash against Fiji, Australia's battle with France and a match between France and Lebanon.

 

INTERNATIONAL RAIDERS

England: Josh Hodgson and Elliott Whitehead (yet to be named)

New Zealand: Jordan Rapana and Joseph Tapine (yet to be named)

Papua New Guinea: Kurt Baptiste and Kato Ottio

Samoa: Joey Leilua, Junior Paulo, Josh Papalii (yet to be named)

Fiji: Masivesi Dakuwaqa (yet to be named)

Italy: Terry Campese (yet to be named)

© Samoa Observer 2016

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