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Kangaroos brace for aggressive Samoa

Fill-in Australian prop Josh Papalii is confident the Kangaroos have their forward stocks sorted ahead of Sunday’s must-win Four Nations rugby league clash with Samoa.

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The Kangaroos were outmuscled by New Zealand in their tournament-opening loss, but were far more impressive up front last week in the victory over an England side containing George and Tom Burgess and James Graham.

The intimidating Samoan pack, led by Frank Pritchard, will provide another stern test at Wollongong in a final group match that will send Australia through to next week’s final if they win.

Papalii has been promoted from the bench to the front row by coach Tim Sheens, after back-rower Beau Scott being ruled out due to a hamstring complaint.

Sam Thaiday moves from prop to the back row, with Matt Moylan added to an extended seven-man bench.

“That first game, we just got rolled over by New Zealand, we started to get our stuff together for England and, this time, we know it is not going to be any easier,” Canberra forward Papalii told reporters on Friday.

“Front row is a pretty basic position and you just have to run hard and tackle hard. Hopefully, I can deliver for the boys and come away with a win.”

All four teams remain in contention for the November 15 tournament decider in Wellington, with New Zealand to host England in Dunedin in the other final-round fixture on Saturday.

A Kiwi win means all Australia need to do is defeat Samoa to qualify for the final, with Samoa a chance to progress if they beat the Kangaroos and earn a more favourable points differential than both Australia and England.

If England are victorious, Australia have to win and end up with a better for-and-against than either England or the Kiwis.

Samoa have pushed England and New Zealand but are winless so far.

An England victory rules Samoa out of the tournament, because they can’t equal or better England’s or New Zealand’s two wins.

As the only recognised front-rower in the starting 13, Aaron Woods is a key player for the Kangaroos, although Canterbury forward David Klemmer, who made his Test debut against England, is likely to start from the bench.

“Woodsy is up and coming – he is carrying his good form from Origin and club footy as well. I can’t wait to run beside him,” Papalii said.

“We are definitely not taking Samoa lightly. It is a Test match for us and we will be focused and up for it on Sunday.

“We have to win this game first before anything happens and the focus is on that.”

FOUR NATIONS TABLE:

Team Played Won Lost For Against Difference Points

New Zealand 2 2 0 44 24 +20 4

England 2 1 1 44 42 +2 2

Australia 2 1 1 28 42 -14 2

Samoa 2 0 2 38 46 -8 0

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