Four Nations spot a major carrot for Samoa and Fiji
Samoa and Fiji will renew their rugby league rivalry on Saturday night, with the winner to qualify for the Four Nations tournament at the end of the year.
A spot in the Four Nations rugby league tournament is on the line this weekend as Fiji and Samoa renew their rivalry in the second annual Pacific Test.
The two teams last met at the World Cup in November, where the Fiji Bati prevailed 22-4 in the quarter finals.
Vinnie Wylie has been speaking with both camps.
Fiji coach Rick Stone has included 13 players who were involved in last year's World Cup campaign. Another returning face is South Sydney Rabbitohs veteran Lote Tuqiri, who will start in the centres, having last played for Fiji at the 2000 World Cup. But a number of frontline players are unavailable, including Newcastle Knights flyer Akuila Uate, Penrith centre Wes Naiqama and Melbourne Storm wing Sisa Waqa.
Rick Stone says the carrot of a place in the Four Nations is a big motivator.
RICK STONE: I think anything that gives the country some exposure like that is a great thing. Obviously it's a fairly significant jump in class playing those three sort of top nations. First things first, if we can do as well as we did in the World Cup and keep our heads on and play well and give ourselves a chance that's the main thing we want to do this weekend is make sure we don't beat ourselves and be in a position that if Samoa are good enough to beat us well fair enough, that's the way it needs to be.
Toa Samoa coach Matt Parish has been able to call on just seven players from the squad that made it to the World Cup quarter finals last year, with a hefty list of UK based players unavailable for selection.
Canberra Raiders fullback Anthony Milford is another notable omission. Having originally declared himself available for Samoa, the teenager changed his mind after Queensland State of Origin selectors said they would prefer he turn out for the Maroons Under 20s, who play New South Wales in the curtain-raiser to the Pacific Test. Former Toa Samoa captain Nigel Vagana says eligibility rules need to be clarified so developing countries aren't continually punished.
NIGEL VAGANA: You're going to find a lot more that are going to be pulled left and right and try and encouraged to play one way or the other, and if it means they're sort of sacrificing a developing nation to wait in the wings for an Australia or New Zealand that waiting in the wings might be two or three years. It seems sort of pointless to have the guys on the sidelines when they could be developing the sport in the smaller nations and then when required or when the opportunity comes to play with the big boys they shouldn't be hindered in that.
Among the new faces in the Toa team are Warriors utility Dominique Peyroux, who previously represented the Cook Islands, and Bulldogs centre Krisnan Inu. Inu was a part of the Kiwis World Cup squad and says the switch of allegiance was his choice.
DOMINIQUE PEYROUX: Always in my heart I've always felt I needed to have a shot at playing for Samoa and my opportunity came and I put my hand up straight away. It means a lot to myself and my family - especially my parents - being brought up full-Samoan so I know they're proud and I'm happy with my decision and I know the family is also.
Meanwhile the Rugby League International Federation is holding a two-day meeting in Sydney this week where Papua New Guinea officials will push for the revival of the Pacific Cup, in an effort to boost the region's World Cup preparations.
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