2017 Rugby League World Cup - New Zealand vs Samoa Preview

The Lowdown

NEW ZEALAND

  • New Zealand will be delighted to finally kick off their World Cup campaign after a controversial build-up that began back in May with captain Jesse Bromwich and Kevin Proctor deemed unavailable for selection after they were involved in a drug scandal.
  • More recently, they have had to deal with injuries and defections with Jason Taumalolo's decision to represent Tonga taking plenty of media limelight.
  • David Kidwell's job is on the line and a poor start could pile the pressure on the Kiwis. They have still named a talented squad but they have clear weaknesses in their side, notably in the centres.

Head Coach: David Kidwell

Team: Tuivasa-Sheck; Watene Zelezniak, Beale, Takairangi, Rapana; Nikorima, Johnson; Taupau, Leuluai, Blair, Bromwich, Tapine, Mannering

Bench: Asofa-Solomona, Packer, Liu, Levi

SAMOA

  • Samoa will be hoping their powerful squad can see them challenge in a tough looking group but a good showing against group favourites New Zealand could lay the platform for a good competition.
  • The Samoans have plenty of talent amongst their ranks with the halfback pairing of Ben Roberts and Joseph Paulo capable of guiding their side around the pitch.
  • The forwards look capable of packing plenty of punch with some good size in the backs too. Joseph Leilua and Tim Lafai could be the key men as they look to get the better of their opposition centres.

Head Coach: Matt Parish

Team: Tonumaipea; Mata'utia, Lafai, Leilua, Maumalo; Joseph Paulo, Roberts; Junior Paulo, Tevaga, Lisone, Papalii, Pritchard, Ah Mau

Bench: Godinet, Ese'ese, Matagi, Afoa

Analysis - what to expect
New Zealand are third favourites for this tournament behind Australia and England but they will be expecting to be the side that challenges the home nation. They have a relatively tough group with the Samoans and Tongans their biggest challengers, but the Kiwis will want to set a marker down here. They beat Samoa 42-24 in the opening game in 2013, and a similar scoreline could be on the cards in this one.