“Proud” Junior Paulo hoping to inspire next generation of Samoans

Junior Paulo

Samoa captain Junior Paulo is hoping to inspire the next generation of Samoan rugby league players after turning his back on tier one nations for this year’s World Cup. 

Paulo played in all three State of Origin matches for New South Wales in 2022, alongside Samoa team-mates Jarome Luai, Brian To’o, Stephen Crichton who were all in contention for the Kangaroos until making their intentions clear.

The 28-year-old prop was born in Auckland and represented the Australian schoolboys but was proud to play for Samoa in the 2017 World Cup and thrilled to be named captain this time.

“I was quite surprised with the announcement but it means everything,” Paulo said.

“Being proud of your heritage, you look at the people who go before you in the jersey. It was quite an emotional call and one I’m looking to embrace.

“We’re definitely proud of where we come from, our heritage.

“Although it was a sacrifice turning your back on those tier-one nations like Australia and New Zealand, it’s about the social impact on what we can provide for the next generation.”

Junior Paulo determined to spoil opening party

While 10 of the 16 competing nations were all going through warm-up matches last weekend, Samoa coach Matt Parish was still waiting for most of his star names to arrive in the country.

Seven members of his 24-man squad were playing the NRL Grand Final in Sydney 12 days ago and, after the celebrations died down, they have had little time to settle into their Doncaster base before getting ready to face England at St James’ Park on Saturday afternoon.

Paulo says his team face a challenge but are determined to spoil their hosts’ party.

“That would be quite the outcome for us but it’s all about preparation,” he said.

“The boys have gelled quite well but, knowing we haven’t played a lot of footy together, it’s all about building that connection.”

Such is the talent at Parish’s disposal, with Sydney Roosters teen sensation Joseph Suaalii and North Queensland Cowboys speedster Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow making themselves available, the former Salford coach could find no place for experienced winger David Nofoaluma.

Paulo will be a part of a very strong Samoan pack, coming head-to-head against Shaun Wane’s side that includes Elliott Whitehead, Victor Radley and Luke Thompson.

“They’ve a quality forward pack and in that warm-up game they certainly powered through the middle,” Paulo said. “It’s a challenge we’re definitely looking forward to.

“We know we’ve got a quality outfit and we’re looking to hit the ground running this week.”

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