SAMOA, shrugging off the emotions of the tsunami tragedy that had claimed more than 140 lives last week, have shown just how serious they are taking the SP Brewery Pacific Cup in PNG at the end of the month.
They have named a side bristling with Australian National Rugby League and British Super League talent to play Cook Islands in the Pacific Cup qualifying match in Cairns next Saturday.
According to a statement from Australia Rugby League office, a crowd of 7,000 is expected to turn up for the qualifying showdown, which will involve several top NRL playing stars and England-based players.
Barlow Park, Cairns, will come alive as the two Pacific nations face off for a spot in the Rugby League International Federation’s (RLIF) newest tournament alongside Fiji, Tonga and host nation Papua New Guinea.
Samoan coach Willie Poching has named a powerful squad featuring UK stars Kylie Leuluai, Francis Meli and Tony Puletua as well as youthful NRL talent in Iosefa Masada, Misi Taulapapa and Joseph Paulo.
Cook Islands coach David Fairleigh has called on young Broncos utility Alex Glenn to lead his new-look squad.
The SP Brewery Pacific Cup kicks off at Lloyd Robson Oval on the weekend of Oct 24, with teams set to arrive in Port Moresby from Oct 19.
But all the action next week will be in Cairns, with both Samoa and Cook Islands set to take part in a week of festivities starting with an intercultural social evening next Tuesday.
Both teams arrive in Cairns on Monday and will train at Northern Pride Oval (Samoa) and Barlow Park (Cook Islands).
Meanwhile, Papua New Guinea continue their preparations for the inaugural SP Brewery Pacific Cup with their annual Origin fixture on Saturday in Mt Hagen.
Fiji have completed their internal trial and are set to name their tournament squad in the coming days, while Tonga, also reeling from the effects of the tsunami last week, are busy preparing for a warm-up match against New Zealand in Rotorua on Oct 14 and are set to name a powerful line-up prior to departing Australia on Oct 12.
SAMOA: Patrick Ah Van, Jack Afamasaga, Paul Chan-Tung, Harrison Hansen, Iosefa Masada, Kylie Leuluai, Peter Matautia, Philip Leuluai, Francis Meli, Tanielu Pasene, Tony Puletua, Joseph Paulo, Tangi Ropati, Terence Seuseu, Kyle Stanley, Albert Talapeau, Sam Tagatese, Lepupa Taulagi, Mark Taufua, Misi Taulapapa. Coach: Willie Poching.
COOK ISLANDS:Tinirau Arona, Sam Brunton, Geoff Daniela, Daniel Fepuleai, John Ford, Anthony Gelling, Terry Glassie, Alex Glen, Keith Lulia, Fred Makimare, Joseph Matapuku, Vinnie NGaro, Leon Panapa, Dominique Peroux, Brad Takirangi, Zane Tetevano, Manikura Tikinau, Ben Vaeu, John Viga. Coach: David Fairleigh.