Kiwi Rugby

NZ bond special for Samoa

Among the 17 set to take the field for Samoa in Auckland are 10 players who were born in New Zealand, while there are another three who were born in other countries but have represented New Zealand at junior or senior level in the past. 

It leaves Young Tonumaipea, Peter Mata'utia, Tim Lafai and Joseph Leilua as the only Samoa players who wouldn't be eligible to represent the Kiwis, while there are also duel Samoa-New Zealand internationals Ben Roberts, Frank Pritchard and Suaia Matagi in coach Matt Parish's team for week one.

Kiwis and Samoa officially welcomed ahead of Cup opener

This outing was a chance for fans to get up close and personal with both teams ahead of the tournament which starts later this week.

The Kiwis and Samoa were welcomed with a haka and Siva Tau by local school children.

Fans were then treated to a skills session with both teams as well as photo opportunities and signatures.

Kiwis star playmaker Shaun Johnson proved he's a hit both on and off the pitch, the 27-year-old was the star attraction at today's session with most of the fans lining up to get his signature as well as a photo.

One change to Kiwis team

Forward Greg Eastwood is the only change to the 19-man squad named to face the home nation, replacing Canberra back rower Joseph Tapine.

"It's no secret this game is going to be won up front," says Kidwell. "Both teams have strong forward packs and we need our middle men to lead the way."

Kidwell and his coaching staff have put the full squad through their paces since arriving in England last Thursday.

"I'm really happy with how the boys have trained. We understand the challenge that's ahead of us and we need to be at our best," he says.