World Cup Preview: New Zealand v Samoa

World Cup holders New Zealand kick-off their campaign against Samoa at Warrington on Sunday evening.

The Kiwis have won just one of their last eight test matches, albeit six of those have come against Australia.

Coach Stephen Kearney has named a team that, he says, is geared towards their opponents, meaning a debut for uncapped winger Roger Tuivasa-Sheck ahead of Jason Nightingale.

The biggest headline will be the return to the line-up of Sonny Bill Williams, the sporting prodigy who won the Rugby World Cup with the All Blacks just two years ago, and who hasn’t played a rugby league international since a mid-season test against Australia in 2008.

It means a first appearance in the 13-man code World Cup, and a virtual sell out crowd at Warrington will be primed for the main attraction.

Samoa are based in Warrington, although they are missing Wolves-bound Roy Asotasi, missing from the entire tournament through injury.

They were disappointing in defeat to England Knights last Saturday, and have a job to do if they are to come close to the Kiwis.

That defeat was even more costly, as captain Harrison Hansen picked up a knock from which he has failed to recover from for the opener, joining the suspended Tim Lafai, sin-binned during the 52-16 defeat, on the sidelines.

Samoa field a handful of former Kiwi internationals in their squad, including David Fa’alogo who started in the back-row in New Zealand‘s 2008 World Cup final win over Australia.

Stand-off Ben Roberts said: “We are not reading too much into the trial match result. It was only a warm-up so it was about trying out different combinations and letting the players get to know each other on the pitch.

“It was the first time a lot of us have played together and it was the only chance we had to find out about the team.

“We have only been preparing for two weeks but the boys are all getting along really well and we have come on leaps and bounds in that time.”

The Samoans failed to get out of the group stage at the last World Cup, but did manage wins against both France and Tonga.

Verdict: This isn’t the game Samoa must win to reach the quarter-finals – New Zealand victory.

Samoa squad: Leeson Ah Mau (St George), David Faalogo (Newcastle), Pita Godinet (NZ Warriors), Harrison Hansen (Wigan), Joseph Leilua (Newcastle), Reni Maitua (Parramatta), Penani Manumaleaii (Cronulla), Mose Masoe (Penrith), Suai Matagi (NZ Warriors), Anthony Milford (Canberra), Junior Sau‘u (Melbourne), Iosia Soliola (St Helens), Sauaso Sue (Wests), Mark Taufua (Cronulla), Daniel Vidot (St George), Antonio Winterstein (Brisbane), Frank Winterstein (Widnes).

New Zealand squad: Josh Hoffman (Brisbane), Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Sydney), Dean Whare (Penrith), Bryson Goodwin (Souths), Manu Vatuvei (NZ Warriors), Kieran Foran (Manly), Shaun Johnson (NZ Warriors), Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Sydney), Isaac Luke (Souths), Jesse Bromwich (Melbourne), Frank Pritchard (Canterbury), Sonny Bill Williams (Sydney), Simon Mannering (NZ Warriors). Interchanges (from): Elijah Taylor (NZ Warriors), Sam Kasiano (Canterbury), Sam Moa (Sydney), Frank-Paul Nu’uausala (Sydney), Greg Eastwood (Canterbury), Ben Matulino (NZ Warriors).

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