Parramatta Eels co-captain Junior Paulo is set to further bolster Toa Samoa’s World Cup prospects after becoming the latest State of Origin star to declare his allegiances to the Pacific nation.
Just a week after Canberra Raiders and Queensland prop Josh Papali’i revealed that more big name NRL players were set to join the Samoan revolution, his NSW State of Origin counterpart confirmed that he would also represent his heritage at the World Cup.
Paulo has played nine Tests for Samoa and was a member of Matt Parish’s 2017 World Cup squad, alongside Papali’i and NSW five-eighth Jarome Luai.
The star five-eighth will be among up to eight members of last year’s Penrith Panthers premiership winning squad to represent the Pacific nation in England.
Panthers and Blues winger Brian To’o has also pledged his allegiance to Samoa, despite being an almost certain selection for Australia if available, along with Paulo, who represented the Junior Kangaroos in 2013.
“It has been a tough one,” Paulo told the Nine Network. “I have been torn between the two [Australia and Samoa].
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“Gus Gould really hit the nail on the head when he said, ‘what nation do you cry for when you sing the anthem’. It plays a big part for me, and for me that is being proud of my home and that is Samoa.”
Paulo, who has played nine Origins for NSW, said he wanted to honour his grandparents in Samoa, while inspiring the next generation of players for the island nation.
“I’ve got my two grandmothers who are both overseas and while they are still alive, I want to be able to make them proud,” he said.
“I want to be able to inspire the next kid who is coming through the ranks, whether they be here or whether they are in the islands watching the World Cup and thinking they want to be able to represent their country.”
The inclusion of Papali’i and Paulo will strengthen a Samoa forward pack expected to feature Manly props Martin Taupau and Josh Aloiai, St George Illawarra second-rower Jaydyn Su’A, North Queensland’s Luciano Leilua and Canterbury’s Raymond Faitala-Mariner.
Samoa play England in the opening match of the tournament at Newcastle’s St James Park on October 15 and with the likes of Luai, To’o, Anthony Milford and David Nofoaluma in a star studded backline, there is growing confidence that Parish’s team can spring an upset.