THE New Zealand Kiwis square up against Samoa in their first game of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup this Saturday in Auckland.
In a drama-filled international season, the Kiwis have come out second best when it comes to selection, which should make for an exciting clash against rivals Samoa.
There is always plenty of feeling when the Kiwis play Samoa and despite the Kiwis owning a 2-0 professional record, Samoa took them to the brink of defeat in the 2014 Four Nations.
Samoa hasn’t forgotten about that day and what’s even scarier for Kiwis’ fans is that Samoa has become a stronger team on paper.
Long-considered a minnow of the league world, Samoa are making inroads due to the strength of their NRL talent and even some former New Zealand representatives have jumped ship to play for the Island nation.
Along with Tonga, Samoa have recruited well this year and with numerous New Zealand-qualified players in its team, it shows exactly what Samoa is playing for this Saturday.
The likes of Ken Maumalo could have played for the Kiwis, but they’re putting their heritage above anything else and many punters are predicting an upset against the out-of-form Kiwis.
New Zealand Kiwis form and first try scorer odds
The Kiwis have been struggling to show their best form since beating Australia in the World Cup and winning the Four Nations.
They have won only two of their last 10 games and that includes a draw against Scotland. A team as stacked as the Kiwis should not be drawing with Scotland and it’s fair to share this Samoan team is stronger than Scotland.
In favour of the Kiwis is their form in tournaments. They play their best league when they have time to gel as a unit, which can be hard for international league sides. Coming up against a physical Samoan team will ensure they don’t slacken off in their first game of the tournament.
Having not won a game in over a year will play on the Kiwis, but they have named a strong team in the opener despite losing Jason Taumalolo to the Tongan side.
Kiwis confirmed team:
Jordan Rapana – $7.50
Dallin Watene-Zelezniak – $9
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck – $9.50
Shaun Johnson – $13
Kodi Nikorima – $17
Gerard Beale – $17
Brad Takairangi – $18
Kenny Browmich – $23
Danny Levi – $23
Joseph Tapine – $23
Simon Mannering – $26
Thomas Leuluai – $26
Isaac Liu – $31
Adam Blair – $31
Nelson Asofa-Solomona – $36
Martin Taupau – $36
Samoa form and first try scorer odds
Samoa don’t get the chance to play as much as the Kiwis, but they have been playing well over the past few years.
Two wins against Tonga have put them at the top of the Island nations rankings and they have performed well against the top nations without winning.
They lost to the Kiwis by two points in 2014 and since then have have been beaten convincingly by Australia and England, but you could see the tide turning.
The struggle for the Samoans has been their consistency and their professionalism. We all know how physical they are, but that gets out of hand on many an occasion. They will need to impose themselves this Saturday, but a more controlled effort for 80 minutes could take them close to winning.
Samoa confirmed team:
Peter Mata’utia – $15
Ken Maumalo – $17
Tim Lafai – $19
Joseph Leilua – $21
Young Tonumaipea – $23
Josh Papalii – $23
Ben Roberts – $34
Pita Godinet – $34
Jazz Tevaga – $46
Joseph Paulo – $46
Herman Ese’ese – $51
Leeson Ah Mau – $51
Frank Pritchard – $51
Bunty Afoa – $51
Junior Paulo – $56
Sam Lisone – $61
Suaia Matagi – $61
New Zealand vs. Samoa game tip
We think New Zealand will win this game, but we’re not predicting a blow out.
The Kiwis won’t live down a loss to Samoa, but the points start line of 12 is too tricky to predict, therefore we suggest backing the winning margin market.
New Zealand is currently $3 to win by 1-12 and that’s the best value for punters.