Maroons and Kangaroos prop Josh Papalii set to play for Samoa in Rugby League World Cup

Canberra Raiders prop Josh Papalii will represent Samoa in the upcoming World Cup, turning his back on the Kangaroos in a shock move.

It is arguably the most high-profile defection away from Mal Meninga’s team so far, with Papalii featuring in Australia’s last game against Tonga in 2019.

The 30-year-old played for Samoa in the 2017 World Cup, but that came after missing out on selection in the Kangaroos squad.

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This time around he was a certainty to be picked, and has instead taken matters into his own hands.

Last month, Brian To’o also said he would play for Samoa, despite being firmly in the conversation for Australian selection.

“As an older player, I feel like it’s a movement I just don’t want to be missing out on,” Papalii told reporters.

“Just seeing the likes of a few of the Penrith boys coming out and I’ve had few text messages from other players who haven’t come out yet saying they’ve put their hand up for Samoa.

“I have put my hand up to play for Samoa. Mal Meninga knows that and I’ve had a coffee with Mal as well to speak about what I’m planning to do… but that’s a long way from here, anything can happen in the next hopefully eight weeks.”

The growing trend of Pacific Islands players electing to represent their nation of heritage exploded before the previous World Cup, when Jason Taumalolo withdrew from New Zealand’s World Cup squad to represent Tonga instead.

There are plenty of others who’ve donned blue, maroon, or green and gold jerseys in the past who will be plying their trade elsewhere in the October tournament.

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Former Kangaroos Andrew Fifita and Alex Johnston are likely to suit up for Tonga and Papua New Guinea, respectively, while plenty of others are yet to make calls on their international future.

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