Toa Samoa vs Fiji Bati Test

Samoa too strong for Tonga in the 2016 Pacific Test. Photo: Facebook / NRL - National Rugby League

This weekend’s historic rugby league test between Toa Samoa and the Fiji Bati in Apia shapes as a big opportunity for fringe players to put themselves in the selection frame for next year’s World Cup.

Toa Samoa have called up six new caps: New Zealand Warriors quartet Mason Lino, Ken Maumalo, James Gavet and Bunty Afoa, Castleford Tigers back Denny Solomona and David Nofoaluma from Wests Tigers.

Meanwhile, Sam Lisone and Tim Lafai are back in blue after last representing the Toa in 2015 and 2014 respectively.

New Zealand Warriors quartet Mason Lino, Ken Maumalo, James Gavet and Bunty Afoa have all been selected in the Toa Samoa squad for the first time.

Rugby League Samoa President Tagaloa Faafouina Su’a said interest in the match was high.

“Very significant, not only for Samoa but for the Asia/Pacific region as well because this is the first ever sanctioned full international test match in the Asia/Pacific and now it’s good to have it in Samoa,” he said.

“People are excited, it’s just a matter of come Saturday. The results will all depend on the coaches and the players but that’s something that’s beyond our control. I think overall the people here are looking forward to the game.

“[There is] quite a lot of supporters from Australia and New Zealand here in Samoa so the influx of tourists and many other supporters started to arrive since last weekend.”

“You need to give the opportunity to other potential players that you feel and believe that they can carry the Samoan flag and the jersey in the next few more years.”

The home side are without a host of front-line players including Sam Tagataese, Antonio Winterstein and Frank Pritchard, while Dally M centre of the year recipient Joey Leilua is injured.

But Tagaloa Faafouina Su’a said there was confidence in the squad selected by Toa coach Matt Parish.

“You’ve got to trust whoever you select, no matter what. Those are the chosen ones to play the game and to play for your country and it’s footy, you cannot rely on players every now and then because injuries is inevitable and other commitments players have,” he said.

“All the players they understand how the selection process is going and also (it is) part of succession planning going forward.”