Australia coach Mal Meninga insists he will not put any pressure on players who are eligible for other nations to play for the Kangaroos at the World Cup.
Meninga believes the Pacific islands could provide strong competition for his holders at this autumn’s tournament in England, especially if they acquire the likes of Penrith duo Brian To’o and Jarome Luai, who are also on his radar.
The Panthers pair have recently been on representative duty with New South Wales in the State of Origin arena.
Luai surprisingly made his debut for Samoa before actually making his NRL debut back in 2017. To’o made his bow for Samoa two years later.
“I think Brian has indicated he will play for Australia but I haven’t put any pressure on any players,” Meninga said. “Once the last Origin finishes I will have a conversation with those lads.
“I would love Jarome to play for Australia but, if he wants to play for Samoa, that’s great. It’s great for Samoa and it’s great for the international game.
“I’ll pick Cameron Munster or Jack Wighton or young Matt Burton or someone like that. I want players who want to play in the Green and Gold and are not umming and ahing.”
Mal Meninga tips Samoa to follow in Tonga’s footsteps
Tonga have enjoyed a meteoric rise in international rugby league. Kristian Woolf’s side reached the semi-finals of the last World Cup in 2017, just falling short to England.
Tonga then built on their momentum of the World Cup by picking up historic wins against Australia and England in 2019.
And Samoa warmed up for the World Cup with a 42-12 win over the Cook Islands in the NRL’s representative round.
Meninga believes Samoa are capable of following in Tonga’s footsteps and becoming a force on the international stage.
He said: “I hope they are strong. There’s a lot of comment back home that, if they get their act together, they’re probably better than Tonga.
“Competition is great, it’s what we want. It will be a tough game for England but a tough game for Samoa too.”
The Kangaroos have not played since their shock defeat to Tonga in 2019. Meninga’s side will only have the annual clash between a Prime Minister’s XIII and Papua New Guinea in October to finalise his preparations ahead of the World Cup.
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