SYDNEY (AP) — Ex-Australia test forward Josh Papalii will make his debut for Samoa after being selected in the country's 24-man squad on Friday for the Rugby League World Cup.
Papalii, who last represented Australia in a mid-year test in 2016, will join a Samoa lineup also featuring Canberra teammates Joey Leilua and Junior Paulo.
He was born in New Zealand to parents of Samoan and Cook Islands heritage and moved as a young child to Australia, where he initially decided to represent the Kangaroos in international rugby league.
Papalii was set to add to his eight tests for the Kangaroos after getting picked to play in their mid-year test against New Zealand, but was cut from the squad after being convicted for drunk driving.
Former New Zealand second rower Frank Pritchard will captain a side coached by Matt Parish.
Ben Roberts, who spent nine seasons in the National Rugby League across stints at Canterbury, Parramatta and Melbourne, will likely be the halfback following an outstanding season at Castleford in the Super League in Britain.
Joseph Paulo returns to the team after captaining the United States in the 2013 World Cup.
"Despite some players being unavailable due to injury we have a very strong squad that will do Samoa proud," Parish said Friday. "It's a tough group but these boys have lifted before when they have put on the Samoan jersey, and there is a lot of competitiveness to gain selection."
Samoa has a warmup match against a Country Rugby League select side in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales state, on Oct. 13 before opening its World Cup campaign against Scotland in Cairns on Oct. 29.
It is playing in Group B with New Zealand, Scotland and Tonga, with the top three teams in the group to advance to the quarterfinals.
Under new international eligibility rules, players can switch between tier one (Australia, New Zealand or England) and tier two countries for the World Cup if they or their parents were born in a country represented by a tier two team.
Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita were two of the higher profile players who chose to play for Tonga rather than New Zealand or Australia.
Samoa: Frank Pritchard (captain), Bunty Afoa, Leeson Ah Mau, Fa'amanu Brown, Herman Ese'ese, Pita Godinet, Joey Leilua, Ricky Leutele, Sam Lisone, Jarome Luai, Suaia Matagi, Peter Mata'utia, Sione Mata'utia, Ken Maumalo, Tautau Moga, Zane Musgrove, Josh Papalii, Joseph Paulo, Junior Paulo, Ben Roberts, Sam Tagataese, Jazz Tevaga, Young Tonumaipea, Matthew Wright.