‘We’ve been building’: Samoa ready for England rematch as World Cup semi-final line-up complete


ENGLAND will face Samoa this Saturday at the Emirates Stadium in a repeat of the tournament’s opening game, with defending champions Australia set to take on fellow southern hemisphere giants New Zealand the previous evening at Elland Road in two major semi-final clashes.

Shaun Wane’s England side easily defeated Papua New Guinea 46-6 at the DW Stadium on Saturday in front of the watching Princess of Wales to book their place in the semi-final.

They will meet Matt Parish’s Samoa, who overcame the challenge of Tonga 20-18 in impressive fashion at the Halliwell Jones Stadium. 

The two teams will now go head-to-head for the second time in this tournament with Samoa set to provide a much sterner test than they did at St James’ Park on 15 October. They now meet at the Emirates Stadium in a 2.30pm kick off for the chance to progress to the final at Old Trafford on Saturday 19 November.

Samoa captain Junior Paulo was immensely proud of both his side and the Tongan side for playing their part in one of the most iconic Rugby League World Cup games in recent memory.

Samoa edged out their Pacific Island rivals by just two points to reach the World Cup semi-finals for the first time and the Parramatta star was delighted to have played a part in celebrating both cultures in such a way. 

“Emotions are through the roof and it’s pretty surreal for us,” said Paulo.

“Both teams can be proud of what they achieved this week and through the tournament.

“We’re seeing both cultures being celebrated all over the world and I think that’s part of our job, being role models in our communities and inspiring the next generation. We can be proud and certainly say it’s heading in the right direction.”

Paulo was bullish in his belief in the team’s ability, insisting their shock heavy defeat to England three weeks ago had never changed their mindset. 

“We’ve been building over the last couple of weeks. The group that we’ve got in the sheds knew that the first game wasn’t an indication of our ability and belief. 

“We knew we just had to get some footy in us we’d keep building in our performances and that’s exactly the direction we’re heading in.”

The game started with a breath-taking spectacle, with both Samoa and Tonga performing their Siva Tau and Sipi Tau war dances simultaneously in a real showcase of both nations’ traditions and culture.

“I asked Jason (Taumalolo) when we went out for the coin toss if he wanted to do it together,” he admitted. 

“I think it’s a sign of unity between the two nations and the support of Rugby League in general.

“It was a very proud moment for me personally. My partner is Tongan and our kids are half and half, so it’s always difficult for my family to decide who to support but I think that’s the best part about celebrating both cultures.”

On the other side of the draw a thrilling battle awaits at Elland Road on Friday 11 November.

Mal Meninga’s defending champions, who have won the title on eleven previous occasions, will take on Michael Maguire’s New Zealand, who previously won the tournament in 2008.

Both sides were in impressive form in the quarter-finals with Australia defeating Lebanon 48-4 at the John Smiths Stadium, with Josh Addo-Carr running in five tries to take his tournament tally to 11. New Zealand exacted revenge on Fiji, who had beaten them at the same stage of the tournament in 2017, winning 24-18 with a brilliant comeback victory after an outstanding first half performance from Fiji.

“It has been a brilliant weekend of Rugby League with nine games across the men’s, women and wheelchair tournaments as well as a royal visit in Wigan from The Princess of Wales,” said Rugby League World Cup 2021, Chief Executive, Jon Dutton.

“It was a fantastic occasion, which was enjoyed by all involved and has elevated the sport to new heights.

“After so many years of build-up, and the incredible challenges that have been overcome, to get to the semi-finals of the men’s tournament is so exciting. What a fantastic couple of games we have in prospect with four tremendous teams set to battle it out for a chance to reach the final at Old Trafford.

“With tickets selling well for both matches at Elland Roads and the Emirates respectively, we are expecting great atmospheres at both venues. Whether you are a hardcore Rugby League fan or new to the sport it should be incredible to watch so get your tickets and witness history being made.”