Jordan James is selected for Wales, and he is set to equal Ian Watson’s Welsh caps record of 30 on his final appearance in a Wales shirt. He announced his international retirement from Wales via his Twitter account earlier in the week.
The match also brings down the curtain on Neil Budworth’s Welsh international career. He is set to win his 16th cap.
Dan Fleming (Castleford Tigers), Rob Massam (North Wales Crusaders) and the previously injured Danny Jones (Keighley Cougars) are all named for the first time in the tournament, whilst Rhodri Lloyd (Wigan Warriors) earns a recall after scoring his first international try in the opening ceremony defeat to Italy.
“We’re pleased that we’ve managed to play games at the homes of both North Wales Crusaders and now South Wales Scorpions and we know that the crowds for these games will be about 10 times their normal attendances.
“So if anything, a good performance this Sunday from us will hopefully bring new fans into the Scorpions next season. That can only be good for the game in Wales.”
The Cook Islands have yet to win a Rugby League World Cup match in five attempts, a record that stretches back to their debut in 2000. Taia, who plays for Catalan Dragons in Super League, is desperate for that record to end.
“The boys know that we can create history by getting the Cook Islands first win in the World Cup, so that’s what we’re aiming for,” he said. “We definitely want to win this game, not just to make everyone in the country proud but for ourselves.
“It’s been a disappointing campaign because we know we could have won both of our matches so far. We want to win on Saturday to make history, to create a proud moment for the country and all the people back home. We’ll do whatever it takes to get that win.”
Cook Islands Coach David Fairleigh has named a strong 19-man squad to take on Wales. He’ll have to do without full back Drury Low, who flew back to Australia on Thursday after his partner gave birth to their daughter. Lulia Lulia looks set to deputise for the Sydney Roosters player. Elsewhere, Anthony Gelling could return, and there could be a first appearance of the tour for Rea Pittman.
David Fairleigh thinks his side has what it takes to finish with a flourish. He said: “I was pleased with the way the boys performed against Tonga, even though we didn’t get the result we wanted.
WALES (from): Neil Budworth (Moranbah Miners), Ross Divorty (Halifax), Gil Dudson (Wigan Warriors), Ben Evans (Bradford Bulls), Rhys Evans (Warrington Wolves), Daniel Fleming (Castleford Tigers), Ben Flower (Wigan Warriors), Tyson Frizell (St George Illawarra Dragons), Jordan James (Salford Red Devils), Danny Jones (Keighley Cougars), Elliot Kear (Bradford Bulls), Craig Kopczak (Huddersfield Giants), Rhodri Lloyd (Wigan Warriors), Peter Lupton (Workington Town), Rob Massam (North Wales Crusaders), Larne Patrick (Huddersfield Giants), Christiaan Roets (North Wales Crusaders), Anthony Walker (St Helens), Lloyd White (Widnes Vikings).
COOK ISLANDS (from): Tinirau Arona (Syndey Roosters), Sam Brunton (Mounties Bundy), Daniel Fepuleai (North Sydney Bears), Jonathon Ford (Toulouse Olympique XIII), Anthony Gelling (Wigan Warriors), Isaac John (Penrith Panthers), Keith Lulia (Bradford Bulls), Lulia Lulia (Shell Harbour), Sam Mataora (Canberra Raiders), Joseph Matapuku (North Sydney Bears), Dylan Napa (Sydney Roosters), Dominique Peyroux (New Zealand Warriors), Rea Pittman (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks), Jordan Rapana (Canberra Raiders), Tupou Sopoaga (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks), Zeb Taia (Captain, Catalan Dragons), Brad Takairangi (Gold Coast Titans), Adam Tangata (Mounties Bundy), Chris Taripo (Sydney Roosters).