The star-studded 17 Samoa could name against England including NRL superstars

Ben Olawumi
Jarome Luai, Brian To'o, Danny Levi

From left to right: Jarome Luai, Brian To'o & Danny Levi all star in our Dream Samoa 17

Over the next few months, we’re looking at the dream side each nation could select if they were able to choose from every eligible player. Next up, on the back of the autumn Test Series announcement, it’s Samoa!

In these feature pieces, we are selecting a starting 13 – and sometimes a bench – to represent a particular country. This can include players born there, those with heritage to the nation or even those eligible via residency rules.

It doesn’t matter where players ply their trade on the domestic front, be it in Super League, the NRL or even elsewhere.

These line-ups are made in collaboration with He Can Play For on X (formerly Twitter). Make sure to check their page out!

So, without further ado, here’s Samoa’s dream 17…

1. Stephen Crichton

Stephen Crichton Samoa News Images
Photo: Mark Cosgrove/News Images

Born in Apia, the capital of Samoa, Crichton’s family relocated to Auckland when he was two and then moved on to Sydney. As a result, his junior rugby was played with the St Clair Comets, eventually being picked up by Penrith Panthers, who he debuted for in the NRL in 2019.

Skip forward five years and the 23-year-old is now a three-time NRL champion having scored a try in each of the last four Grand Finals Down Under, starting with the 2020 showpiece which the Panthers lost to Melbourne Storm in. Ahead of the 2024 season, the versatile back was snapped up by Canterbury Bulldogs.

Having also represented New South Wales in State of Origin, Crichton – who kicked the winning drop goal at The Emirates against England in the semi-final – debuted for Samoa in the delayed 2021 Rugby League World Cup. He now has eight international appearances on his CV, scoring four tries and kicking 30 goals as well slotting over that unforgettable one-pointer.

2. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow

Tabuai-Fidow was born in Cairns, but has a Samoan father, and has represented his heritage by pulling on their shirt against England in the opening game of the World Cup in 2022. More recently, the winger has featured for the Kangaroos, but he would be in Samoa’s dream 17, for sure.

Another to have featured in Origin, for Queensland, the 22-year-old was named the North Queensland Cowboys’ Rookie of the Year back in 2020, the year which saw him take his first steps into the NRL. Having joined the Dolphins in 2023, he now has 45 tries in 78 first-grade appearances Down Under.

3. Murray Taulagi

25-year-old Taulagi is another who has represented both Samoa and the Kangaroos on the international stage, each of those coming through his heritage having been born in New Zealand!

A Queensland representative in Origin, the outside-back has spent his whole senior career with the Cowboys to date, debuting for them in the NRL at the back end of the 2019 season having recovered from an MCL injury. Four-and-a-half years on, Taulagi has now scored 41 tries in 84 first-grade appearances.

4. Izack Tago

At 22, young gun Tago – a Sydney native – has three international appearances and two international tries to his name at 22, all coming for Samoa who he represents via his heritage.

A St Mary’s Saints junior, the centre made his NRL bow for Penrith in the 2021 campaign and has formed part of the Panthers’ squad which has won three successive Grand Finals Down Under, featuring in the 2023 showpiece triumph against Brisbane Broncos.

5. Brian To’o

Brian To'o Samoa News Images
Photo: News Images

Panthers team-mate To’o is an obvious choice for this spot on the wing, another born in Australia – Westmead to be exact – that dons a shirt for Samoa on the international stage via his heritage. The 25-year-old – a NSW representative in Origin – also has Chinese heritage, with five tries to his name in his eight appearances for Samoa to date, all made and scored since 2019.

Towering winger To’o recently surpassed the milestone of a century of NRL appearances, all made in the colours of Penrith having starred in their three consecutive title triumphs Down Under. Named the Dally M Winger of the Year in 2021, his overall record at club level now reads 73 tries in 105 appearances.

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6. Chanel Harris-Tavita

Harris-Tavita was born in Auckland and continues to shine for the New Zealand Warriors. But having also featured for the Māori All Stars, the 25-year-old proudly represents his Samoan heritage on the international front, and – debuting in 2019 – already has seven appearances for Toa Samoa including six in the delayed 2021 Rugby League World Cup.

The playmaker – who can also slot in at full-back – also made his NRL debut for the Warriors in 2019, and now has 61 first-grade appearances. That figure would undoubtedly have been higher had he not taken a hiatus from rugby league in 2023, missing the campaign in favour of travelling Europe! Upon his return this year however, the Warriors quickly snapped him back up.

7. Jarome Luai

Jarome Luai and Taylan May Samoa

Sydney-born NSW representative Luai’s bumper five-year deal with Wests – which begins in 2025 – was one of the most talked about moves of the last off-season, testament to what a signing that is for the Tigers. Representing his heritage, the 27-year-old half-back made his Samoa debut – at the 2017 World Cup – before he’d played a single NRL game, which is almost unheard of.

Fast forward six-and-a-half years, and he’s now a three-time NRL champion having starred for Penrith during this period of dominance Down Under after winning the NSW Cup in his youth years, with 119 first-grade appearances now on his CV. When he’s on form, Luai is frightening.

8. Junior Paulo

Another NSW representative in Paulo was born in Auckland, but represents Samoa through his heritage with links to the village of Safotu. His international bow came against Tonga in May 2016, and with his 31st birthday coming up in November, he now has  17 international caps which – in the modern era – is bettered only by Salford Red Devils star Tim Lafai.

Powerhouse Paulo is also approaching the 200-mark in terms of appearances for Parramatta Eels, the club he debuted in the NRL for back in 2013. The prop would undoubtedly already have surpassed that milestone but for a three-season stint with Canberra between 2016 and 2018, but needs just 13 more appearances to reach 250 in the NRL overall.

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9. Danny Levi

27-year-old Levi is the first name in this side to have played in Super League – featuring 30 times for Huddersfield Giants in the 2022 season, including an appearance in the Challenge Cup final against Wigan Warriors at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Born in Wellington, the hooker – a former NSW Cup winner who began his career in the NRL with Newcastle Knights – has featured four times for the Kiwis on the international front, but has five appearances for Samoa on his CV, earned through his heritage.

Having also donned a shirt for Manly Sea Eagles & Brisbane Broncos in the NRL, Levi is now with Canberra having joined them ahead of the 2023 season. His 16 appearances for the Raiders to date take his overall NRL tally up to 129, with 11 tries scored at first-grade level Down Under to date.

10. Stefano Utoikamanu

Cabramatta Two Blues junior Utoikamanu, 24, was also born in New Zealand, though has only ever represented Samoa to this point in his career, getting his first taste of international rugby league at last year’s Pacific Championships.

The young prop agreed a deal to join Wests from 2021 before he’d even made his Parramatta debut the previous year, though managed three senior appearances for the Eels prior to making the move. Utoikamanu’s impressive performances in his first year with Wests earned him NSW representative honours, and he remains with the Tigers now, making 66 NRL appearances to date.

11. Jaydn Su’a

Already an eight-time Samoa international, again through his heritage, second-rower Su’a is a Queensland representative having been born in Christchurch, but moved to Australia at the age of two. The 26-year-old has over 100 NRL appearances to his name, made between three clubs.

Starting off with Brisbane Broncos, Su’a moved on to South Sydney Rabbitohs in 2019, and in his last season with the Bunnies in 2021, featured in the NRL Grand Final as they were beaten by Penrith. The forward moved on again to St George Illawarra Dragons, and remains with them now, fast approaching 50 appearances in their colours.

12. Kelma Tuilagi

Tuilagi, 25, was born in Apia but moved to New Zealand, playing junior rugby league for the Glenora Bears and representing the Kiwis at youth level on the international front. His only senior international appearances to date though have come for home country Samoa – featuring four times for them at the delayed 2021 Rugby League World Cup.

The powerful forward cut his teeth in terms of professional rugby league with Melbourne Storm’s second-grade side, before getting his breakthrough in the NRL with Wests, debuting in 2021. Having also spent time with Manly, Tuilagi is now with Parramatta and earlier this year reached the milestone of 50 first-grade appearances.

13. Josh Papali’i

A Grand Finalist with Canberra in 2019, veteran Papali’i – who also has heritage linking back to the Cook Islands – rounds off our starting 13. The 32-year-old has never donned another shirt at club level than the Raiders professionally, and having debuted back in 2011, is fast approaching the landmark of 300 appearances in their colours.

Internationally, the Auckland-born ace initially featured for the Kangaroos having moved to Australia aged 5 but now has more Samoa appearances (11) than games played for the Kangaroos (10). Papali’i has 23 State of Origin appearances on his CV for Queensland, too.

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14. Sualauvi Fa’alogo

21-year-old Fa’alogo looks like he could be involved in the Samoa setup for years to come having debuted last autumn in the Pacific Championships on the back of his first NRL appearance for Melbourne Storm in the final round of the 2023 campaign, scoring a try on debut.

The youngster, born in the village of Siumu, was raised in Melbourne and has already been tied down long-term by the Storm, penning a contract until the end of the 2028 season. A real star in the making, it would seem!

15. Spencer Leniu

Seven-time Samoa international Leniu earns himself a spot on our interchange bench, another youngster who appears to have a bright future given he’s already made close to 90 appearances in the NRL at the age of 23. Born in Auckland and growing up in Australia, the forward is another whose Samoan representation comes via his heritage.

Leniu, who made his first Origin appearance for NSW earlier this year, featured in all three of Penrith’s Grand Final successes – 2021, 2022 & 2023 – before making the move to Sydney Roosters ahead of this season.

16. Royce Hunt

Born in the Sydney suburb of Liverpool, Hunt is also of Hawaiian and Māori descent, but represents his Samoan heritage on the international stage with six appearances to his name having featured in both the delayed 2021 Rugby League World Cup and last year’s Pacific Championships.

The 28-year-old forward came through the youth ranks with the Bulldogs, but it would be Canberra who he made his NRL debut for in the 2017 season. Hunt was only able to make that one appearance for the Bulldogs before moving on to Cronulla ahead of the 2020 campaign, and he remains with the Sharks now, approaching 70 appearances in their colours.

17. Josh Aloiai

An Auckland native, Aloiai has both Samoan and Italian heritage. He debuted for Toa Samoa, representing that heritage, in 2018 and now has five international appearances on his CV. Notably, Aloiai’s father – who passed in 2009 – was a national ju-jitsu champion in New Zealand!

The 28-year-old was initially signed by Parramatta, but made his NRL bow for Wests in 2016, featuring 90 times for the Tigers before departing at the end of the 2020 season, when Manly snapped him up. Aloiai’s next appearance Down Under will be his 150th overall in the NRL.

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