Samoa rugby league coach Matt Parish says he’s resigned to losing a couple of players to New Zealand.
Toa Samoa reached the quarter finals at last year’s World Cup despite failing to a win any of their four tests.
A host of injuries and retirements has left new Kiwis coach Michael McGuire scrambling to name a squad to face England in Denver next weekend.
Matt Parish expects most of his World Cup team to be available for Samoa’s Pacific Test against Tonga in Campbelltown but said New Zealand has managed to convince a couple of players to cross-over.
“I’ve obviously spoken to a lot of boys and there’s plenty of them putting their hand up, which is a good sign, ” he said.
“The thing about it is I’ve got no doubt we’re going to lose a couple to New Zealand because of the retirements and the guys choosing Tonga [instead of New Zealand].
“I think there’s a couple who will get picked for New Zealand that were probably going to be in my squad, such as Leeson Ah Mau and Raymond Faitala-Mariner, but good on them. That’s what they want to do and we support it 100 percent.”
Matt Parish said he respects the decision by the likes of Jason Taumalolo to commit themselves to Tonga long-term but still believes Samoa has every chance of beating their Polynesian rivals next weekend if they play to their best.
“I admire the great loyalty that they’ve shown but obviously I think there’s some things there – some payments or land ownership being given – that haven’t come to light yet which I’m sure they will but good luck to them,” he said.
“They’re able to keep those players and it’s a sign of the times when you’ve got high quality players like these guys choosing Tonga over New Zealand which is great for the international game.”
“If we can play well, which I’m sure we will, and obviously get the players that we want I’ve got no doubt it will be a great game and I’ve got no doubt we can compete very well against them,” Parish enthused.
“But they’ve got a mighty team now led by Taumalolo and a few others there so we’re under no illusion how tought it’s going to be but we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Matt Parish said six months on from the World Cup tier two nations, such as Samoa, Fiji, Tonga and Papua New Guinea, are still dealing with the same challenges when trying to compete with the established order of international rugby league.
“It’s tough because again these nations play 10-20 thousand dollars a test match where we don’t play anything but, as I’ve always said, if you make the international payment a fair and even balanced field then let them choose,” he said.
“For the game to grow internationally that’s what’s got to happen: there’s got to be a more consistent paying frame and then also more consistent games – not just based around the big three as it has been for ages, which is Australia, England and New Zealand.”