News broke last Thursday that both Australia and New Zealand will not be sending teams to the 2021 Rugby League World Cup. Whilst this development was devastating to fans and is likely to have wide-ranging ramifications for the future of international rugby league, Pacific Island nations are yet to rule themselves out of the tournament. Players with dual eligibility have had the decision taken out of their hands, which could actually be a good thing for island nations looking to field the strongest possible team.
It’s been widely acknowledged that Jerome Luai and Josh Papalii had already chosen Samoa over Australia (both originally qualified for New Zealand too) however other likely picks for Australia such as David Fifita and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui are all of a sudden freed up to represent Tonga and Samoa respectively.
Adding another dimension to an already bizarre situation, News Ltd is now reporting that both the Australian Indigenous and New Zealand Maori are keen to fill the void left by the Kangaroos and Kiwis, further opening up the tournament to such stars as Reece Walsh, Kalyn Ponga and Latrell Mitchell.
All these factors combined are a recipe for a very strong demonstration of player power, as only a minority of players, largely Anglo-Saxon Australians would be unable to make themselves eligible for the World Cup if they so desired. Even the likes of James Tedesco and Mitchel Moses could represent Italy and Lebanon respectively.
Whilst the tournament will be all the poorer for not having established stars such as Nathan Cleary and Daly Cherry-Evans, this could partly be bridged by Pacific Island nations naming by far their strongest teams in the history of international rugby league.
SAMOA ELIGIBLE PLAYERS
John Asiata, Payne Haas, Karmichael Hunt, Jamayne Isaako, Richie Kennar, Danny Levi, Anthony Milford, Keenan Palasia, Ben Te’o, Dunamis Lui, Josh Papalii, Iosia Soliola, Christian Crichton, Raymond Faitala-Mariner, Ava Seumanufagai, Erin Clark, Herman Ese’ese, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Sam Lisone, Greg Marzhew, Phillip Sami, Josh Aloiai, Josh Schuster, Toafofoa Sipley, Jorge Taufua, Martin Taupau, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Dean Ieremia, Aaron Pene, Marion Seve, Bunty Afoa, Leeson Ah Mau, Chanel Harris-Tavita, Edward Kosi, Jazz Tevaga, Hymel Hunt, Simi Sasagi, Pasami Saulo, Sauaso Sue, Enari Tuala, Daejarn Asi, Connelly Lemuelu, Francis Molo, Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, Murray Taulagi, Dylan Brown, Isaiah Papali’i, Junior Paulo, Nathaniel Roache, Stephen Crichton, Spencer Leniu, Moses Leota, Jarome Luai, Tyrone May, Charlie Staines, Izack Tago, Brian To’o, Patrick Mago, Tautau Moga, Jaxson Paulo, Jaydn Su’a, Junior Amone, Poasa Faamausili, Max Feagai, Tyrell Fuimaono, Josh McGuire, Jordan Pereira, Brad Abbey, Isaac Liu, Joseph Suaalii, Tom Amone, Shawn Blore, Michael Chee-Kam, Asu Kepaoa, Joseph Leilua, Luciano Leilua, Ken Maumalo, Thomas Mikaele, Zane Musgrove, David Nofoaluma, Tommy Talau, Daniel Saifiti, Jacob Saifiti, Hamlin-Uele, Mulitalo, Royce Hunt, Franklin Pele
Let us know what Samoan team you would pick from these players!