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Samoa lose Pritchard in setback for England Test

Samoa has suffered a blow ahead of the upcoming Test against England after captain Frank Pritchard was ruled out for up to three months with a foot injury sustained in Parramatta’s recent loss to the Warriors.

Pritchard was not named by Eels coach Brad Arthur for Saturday’s clash with Penrith after missing the Easter Monday win over Wests Tigers which the club has revealed that he will be sidelined until round 18.

Canberra forward Sia Soliola looms as the obvious choice as skipper for the May 6 Test but Samoa coach Matt Parish admitted the loss of Pritchard was a setback for a match considered vital to preparations for end of season Rugby League World Cup.

“Losing Frank is a big blow for us but it will give an opportunity to someone else and we are still going to have a strong team.” Parish said.

“It is unfortunate that Frank is out but we are still going to have him in camp because he is an important part of our team.”

Pritchard, whose brother Kaysa is expected to be the Samoa hooker, is so passionate about representing the Pacific nation that he missed a Super League match for Hull FC last year to play against Fiji in Sydney.

The year before he combined with close friend and former Canterbury team-mate Sam Kasiano to produce a remarkable match winning tackle on Tonga winger Jorge Taufua in the Pacific Test on the Gold Coast.

Despite the absence of Pritchard, Samoa are set to field their strongest ever Test line-up against England at Campbelltown Stadium, but the team is unlikely to include any Super League-based players.

Brisbane five-eighth Anthony Milford and Raiders centre Joey Leulua will be the headline acts but, Parish has no shortage of talent to choose from and some tough selection decisions will have to be made.

Other players expected to be chosen are Sia Soliola, Sam Kasiano, Canberra prop Junior Paulo, Josh McGuire, Leeson Ah Mau, Peter and Sione Mata'utia, Antonio Winterstein, Tim Lafai, David Nofoaluma, Sauaso Sue, Isaac Liu and Nu Brown.

Also eligible are Melbourne prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Broncos centre Tautau Moga, Warriors prop James Gavet and winger Ken Maumalo, North Queensland playmaker John Asiata and South Sydney prop Zane Musgrove.

With changes to the international eligibility rules enabling players with dual eligibility such as Milford to represent their heritage if not chosen by Australia, Parish predicts this will be the most competitive World Cup ever.

Tonga and Fiji, who also play at Campbelltown Stadium on May 6, along  with Papua New Guinea and Cook Islands, will also be boosted by the availability of players who previously did not want to jeapordise their State of Origin prospects.

“I think everyone will realise it even more once they see the teams for theseTests coming up in May,” Parish said.

By Brad Walter | @BradWalterSport
Chief Correspondent, RLWC2017

Frank Pritchard was instrumental in Toa Samoa's 2016 Pacific Test victory over Tonga.