Australia v Samoa Men's RLWC 2021 Final preview

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Australia Men v Samoa Men Sunday 3:00am at Old Trafford, Manchester

Samoa has thrived as underdogs this Rugby League World Cup and will look to pull off the ultimate boilover when they face Australia in the final on Sunday morning at Old Trafford.

Both recent form and history will be against Samoa this week, although admittedly the Kangaroos have not looked at their devastating best on both sides of the ball in recent games.

That, of course, could be a concern for Samoa given Australia is still undefeated in the World Cup, sneaking past New Zealand 16-14 last week to book its spot in the decider.

Unsurprisingly, Meninga has stuck with the same 17 that got the job done last week against the Kiwis, seeing Cameron Munster and Nathan Cleary combine in the halves once more.

"I'm very happy with the attitude and performance of all 24 players throughout the World Cup but keeping the same team for the final is a bonus," Meninga said.

"We are all very well aware that our goal hasn't been achieved yet and fully realise we are on the cusp of something very few players have had the opportunity to do."

Daly Cherry-Evans and Reuben Cotter have also once again been named as part of the extended squad, with both expected to drop out before Sunday morning's final.

The Kangaroos have played Samoa three times previously, with two taking place during World Cups.

Australia won all three by a combined scoreline of 156-28, with the most recent win being a resounding 46-0 thumping back in the quarter-finals at the World Cup in 2017.

Few people will be giving Samoa a chance on Sunday but that sits just fine with five-eighth Jarome Luai, who will line up against Panthers teammate and now rival Nathan Cleary.

"Belief got us this far - not many people did believe in us, but within our group there is plenty of that," Luai said after Samoa's 27-26 win over England in the semi-finals.

"We always believed we couple shake the Cup up. We're here now - why not win the Cup?

"Belief is everything within this team. We knew what was going to happen coming into camp. Now we're heading to a final in the World Cup. The belief never changed."

Samoa is already making history on Sunday, becoming the first ‘Tier 2' nation to reach a World Cup final since group stages were introduced in 1995.

It has already been a highly successful campaign for Samoa, who had only won a maximum of two games in a tournament prior to this year's World Cup. But the job is far from done.

"What we've done just to get where we are is kind of overwhelming, but the journey continues for us," front rower Junior Paulo said last week.

Samoa has made just one change to its squad, with Fa'amanu Brown sidelined due to a head knock and replaced by forward Connelly Lemuelu.

Last meeting: 2017 RLWC Quarter Final - Australia 46 Samoa 0, Darwin

Who to watch: Mal Meninga was never going to change his line-up after Australia's undefeated run into this year's World Cup final. And yet, the selection of two-time premiership-winning halfback Nathan Cleary continues to be a contentious one. It is no so much that anyone is doubting Cleary's natural ability or talent but rather the 25-year-old is still learning how to be a dominant voice in the representative arena. Be it State of Origin or international football, Cleary has the ability to take control and dictate a game but he is yet to have that vintage performance this tournament that well and truly silences his doubters. A final against club teammate Luai is the perfect chance for him to do just that.

If Samoa is any chance of pulling off an upset it starts up front with a former Kangaroo. Josh Papalii suited up for 11 Tests in the green and gold, including coming off the bench in the 2013 World Cup final win over New Zealand. Now though he will be donning the blue and white of Samoa and the Raiders prop has been in fine form this tournament. Papalii is averaging 103 metres per game, more than any other forward for Samoa, to go with 17 tackle busts overall. Having made the decision to pledge his allegiance to Samoa ahead of this year's World Cup, Papalii will have added motivation to create history as the game's first player to win the tournament for two separate nations.

The favourite: The Kangaroos are well-backed to take out the final in relatively comfortable fashion.

My tip: Samoa has been on quite the run but you get the sense Australia has one more dominant performance left and it will come at just the right time. Kangaroos by 20.

1. James Tedesco 4. Valentine Holmes 10. Jack Wighton 8. Latrell Mitchell 9. Josh Addo-Carr 7. Cameron Munster 14. Nathan Cleary 5. Jake Trbojevic 3. Ben Hunt 6. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 21. Liam Martin 17. Angus Crichton 24. Isaah Yeo 20. Harry Grant 13. Patrick Carrigan 11. Cameron Murray 18. Tino Fa'asuamaleaui 2. Daly Cherry-Evans

1. Joseph Suaalii 5. Brian To'o 4. Stephen Crichton 25. Tim Lafai 2. Taylan May 6. Jarome Luai 7. Anthony Milford 15. Royce Hunt 20. Chanel Harris-Tavita 10. Junior Paulo 11. Ligi Sao 12. Jaydn Su'A 23. Oregon Kaufusi 22. Kelma Tuilagi 8. Josh Papali'i 16. Spencer Leniu 17. Martin Taupau 26. Ken Sio

Referees: Ashley Klein; Sideline Officials: Jack Smith, Warren Turley; Video Referees: Chris Kendall;

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