Toa Samoa have named nine debutants to face Australia in the opening game of the 2023 Pacific Championships on Saturday night in Townsville.
Eleven months after they squared off in the Rugby League World Cup Final, the Kangaroos and the Toa Samoa will meet again in a highly anticipated Pacific Championships opener.
Toa Samoa’s newly appointed head coach, Ben Gardiner, has named six debutants to start with three looking to come off the bench.
Melbourne Storm’s rising star Sua (Sualauvi) Fa’alogo as starting fullback. Fa’alogo described himself as just a kid from Samoa, when he pulled off a debut to remember scoring two tries when Melbourne Storm took out the Brisbane Broncos 32-22 at the Suncorp Stadium last month.
North Queensland Cowboys star winger Murray Taulagi who represented Australia in last year’s World Cup is set to make his Toa Samoa debut at wing.
Parramatta Eels half back Daejarn Asi is set to make his debut for Samoa in the halves. Asi plays as a five-eighth and centre for the Eels.
West Tigers power forward Stefano Utoikamanu is set to make his Samoa debut starting in the front row. Stefano made his NRL debut for Parramatta Eels in Round 9 of the 2020 season. He is signed at Wests Tigers until the end of the 2024 season.
Mainly Sea Eagles young talent Gordon Chan Kum Tung set to start as hooker. Gordon joined Manly’s development progamme as a 14 year old and is known for being a crafty and intelligent hooker with leadership qualities on and off the field.
Dolphins power forward Connelly Lemuelu will be set to make his debut in the second row. Lemuelu was called in as a replacement during the Rugby League World Cup, but this would be his first start for Samoa.
Three debutants will be looking to come off the bench for the Toa Samoa. Sydney Roosters forward Terrell May, North Queensland Cowboys forward Heilum Luki and New Zealand Warriors young halfback Ronald Volkman.
Penrith Panthers grand final championship stars – Stephen Crichton, Brian To’o and Izack Tago have all been named to start while Spencer Leniu will look to come off the bench.
Melbourne Storm centre Young Tonumaipea will start while Cronulla Sharks powerhouse Royce Hunt has been named as the 18th man.
Toa Samoa is set to take on World No 1 Australia in what could be seen as a World Cup Final rematch on Saturday night at Townsville’s Queensland Country Bank Stadium.