Help from some Super League stars has Samoa firing on all cylinders

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Help from some Super League stars has Samoa firing on all cylinders

Samoa assistant coach Lee Radford has heralded the impact of a number of Super League stars on the team, as the nation have bounced back from their humiliating loss in the first match of the Rugby League World Cup.

“We got caught slightly off-guard against England,” the Castleford Tigers boss admitted, while appearing on the 5 Live Rugby League World Cup podcast.

“We knew we’d be pretty cold, but we didn’t think we’d be that far off.”

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Samoa was handed a reality check in the curtain-raiser when they were hammered 60-6 by the host nation. It was a living nightmare for the team who headed into the tournament as dark horses, after a number of NRL stars had committed to playing for them.

However, they picked themselves up and have rattled off three consecutive victories, with their most notable performance coming against Tonga last week, where they prevailed 20-18.

“To see the progression over the past three or four weeks has been really pleasing,” Radford said.

“I think the Penrith boys had been in the country for five days and we’d had two training sessions collectively together. But we’ve seen week in and week out what some of these boys in the NRL can do.”

Although it is a number of players who ply their trade in the Super League that Radford accredited with helping change the side’s fortunes.

“I think the additions that have come in with Ligi Sao and Tim Lafai have been fantastic for us,” he said. 

“When the selection meeting we had prior to the competition began, I was tossing blokes up like Tim Lafai and Ricky Leutele.

“They were not sort of frowned upon but they felt there was better options coming from Australia. So, to see them blokes come in and do so well is pleasing for me.”

As well as the impact of previously overlooked players such as Lafai and Sao, the Samoan assistant coach was also keen to point out the side’s focus in the ruck as a big reason for their improvement.

“After round one, it was pretty obvious to see the difference in ruck tempo and control,” he said. 

“That’s been a massive area of improvement for us. We got mobbed in the ruck first game and hopefully we’ve shown a little bit more detail in that area as the rounds have gone by.”

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Despite Samoa’s recovery from the devastating setback in the tournament opener, Radford was under no illusion that England would pose plenty of problems once again during their semi-final.

“They’ve been growing as a group and hopefully they can continue that this week against what, to me, looks like the best team in the competition,” he said.

“When I say team, I don’t particularly mean on paper- they’ve got a lot of cohesion in what they’re doing. They’ve had a long time to plan for this, so you’d probably expect that as well.”

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