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Pacific Championships Preview

The Pacific Championships will begin this weekend with two big matches. Australia will take on Samoa in what is a rematch of the Rugby League World Cup Final, while Papua New Guinea will contest against the Cook Islands, with plenty of future stars on show.

Australia vs Samoa

In a rematch of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup Final, Australia and Samoa will have two entirely different teams from when they last competed in England at the end of last year. Some notable names that will be absent from the match include the likes of Nathan Cleary (Australia), Jarome Luai (Samoa), Latrell Mitchell (Australia), Anthony Milford (Samoa), Jack Wighton (Australia) and Josh Papalii (Samoa) just to name a few.

Mal Meninga has chosen nearly an entire new backline for the opening game of the Pacific Championships by naming four debutants: Dylan Edwards, Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, Kotoni Staggs and Selwyn Cobbo. Veteran halfback Daly Cherry-Evans returns to the starting team in favour of the injured Nathan Cleary and ahead of last year’s Dally M medallist Nicho Hynes – who was called up into the Pacific Championships squad.

New Samoan coach Ben Gardiner has chosen a new-look forward pack that is led by Junior Paulo and Spencer Leniu but will also include NSW Blues front-rower Stefano Utoikamanu, Cowboys rookie Heilum Luki and Cronulla Sharks workhorse Royce Hunt.

Stephen Crichton will also take the reins of the five-eighth role after club teammate Jarome Luai and rookie Bulldogs half Karl Oloapu were ruled out with injury.

In the four previous meetings against each other, Australia has racked up a score of 186-28. However, Samoa should not be underestimated.

Australia (Tedesco, Edwards, Tabuai-Fidow, Staggs, Cobbo, Munster, Cherry-Evans, Haas, Hunt, Fa’asuamaleaui, Murray, Martin, Yeo, Grant, Collins, Carrigan, Cotter)

Samoa (Faalogo, Taulagi, Tago, Tonumaipea, To’o, Crichton, Asi, Utoikamanu, Chan Kum Tong, Paulo, Leilua, Lemuelu, Palasia, Leniu, May, Luki, Volkman)

Match Result: Australia ($1.04) Samoa ($11.00)

Line (22.5): Australia -22.5 ($1.90) Samoa 22.5 ($1.90)

Total Score (45.5): Under 45.5 ($1.92) Over 45.5 ($1.88)

Best Bets

  1. Margin- Australia 13+ @ $1.29
  2. Anytime Tryscorer- James Tedesco @ $2.08
  3. Anytime Tryscorer- Izack Tago @ $5.10
  4. Anytime Tryscorer- Cameron Murray @ $3.05
  5. To Score 2 or More Tries- Brian To’o @ $16.00

Papua New Guinea vs Cook Islands

Under the guidance of new head coach Justin Holbrook, the Papua New Guinea Kumuls will be looking to showcase a dominant performance to kick-start their Pacific Championship tournament. With 11 players of NRL experience in their team, Rabbitohs star tryscorer Alex Johnston and former Sydney Roosters halfback Lachlan Lam are some of the key names in the squad.

Linked with a move back to the NRL earlier this year, Leigh Leopards halfback Lachlan Lam is having a tremendous year, having won the Challenge Cup in England and will be eager to continue his success in the international arena. Expect Lam to play a major role in the game, especially when he has the ball in his hands in attack.

Having gained the services of Jack De Belin, the Dragons forward will make his debut this weekend for Papua New Guinea, which is a major gain for the nation. A former NSW Blues representative, he will lead the forward pack that also consists of club teammate Dan Russell and Gold Coast Titans forward Jacob Alick, who recently signed a contract extension with the club for the 2024 season.

Taking on the Kumuls is the Cook Islands Aitu. While many names will be unheard of in the team, Davvy Moale (South Sydney Rabbitohs) and Zane Tetevano (former Sydney Roosters premiership winner) will need to lead by the front and inspire the younger inexperienced members of the forward pack.

Brad Takairangi and Tevin Arona will accompany each other in the halves while all eyes will be on centre Kayal Iro. The 2022 NSW Cup Player of the Year, Iro, has been described as the ‘Next Big Thing’ in rugby league and has earned praise from his Cronulla Sharks teammates such as Siosifa Talakai and Jesse Ramien. Makahesi Makatoa, Rua Ngatikaura and Esan Marsters are other known names in the starting team.

Papua New Guinea (Johnston, Derby, Laybutt, Tai, MacDonald, Laybutt, Lam, Kapinias, Rimbu, Richard, Alick, Russell, De Belin, Horne, Putt, Rop, Kot)

Cook Islands (Ioka, Morgan, Iro, Marsters, Marsters, Takairangi, Arona, Moale, Ngatikaura, Makatoa, Tetevano, Porter, Petterson-Robati, Samuel, Dakin, Makirere, Ioka)

Match Result: PNG ($1.07) Cook Islands ($8.50)

Line (20.5): PNG -20.5 ($1.90) Cook Islands 20.5 ($1.90)

Total Score (46.5): Under 46.5 ($1.90) Over 46.5 ($1.90)

Best Bets

  1. Big Win Little Win- PNG 13+ @ $1.34
  2. To Score 2 or More Tries- Alex Johnston @ $4.00
  3. To Score 3 or More Tries- Alex Johnston @ $13.00
  4. First of Last Tryscore- Kayal Iro @ $14.00
  5. Total Score (46.5)- Over 46.5 @ $1.90

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