Leilua v Jennings in Origin showdown

admin | 杭州桑拿
5 Mar 2019

Samoa coach Matt Parish has challenged centre Joey Leilua to use his personal duel with Australia’s Michael Jennings in Sunday’s Four Nations Test at WIN Stadium to prove he is ready for State of Origin next season.

Leilua, whose departure from Sydney Roosters at the start of last year paved the way for Jennings to join the club, has been in devastating form in his opening two appearances of the tournament against England and New Zealand.

So dominant was the Newcastle star in Samoa’s first-up 32-26 loss to England, in which he produced a try assist, five line breaks and an offload, that opposite centre Michael Shenton was dropped afterwards.

He also terrorised former Roosters team-mate Shaun Kenny-Dowall in last Saturday’s 14-12 loss to the Kiwis to finish with nine tackle breaks, an off-load and a line-break.

Kangaroos players were calling Leilua’s name in defence during a training drill on Thursday and Parish said that the 22-year-old could demonstrate he was ready for Origin with another strong performance opposite Jennings.

“It should be a good contest,” Parish said. “Joey has been in terrific form but to be an Origin player you need to be consistent and he needs to play well again this week to cement that consistency, which is one of those things that hasn’t really been one of his strong points.

“But he is certainly a good player, and playing against Australia is a great springboard for him to prove that he can play Origin.”

Leilua has been in the Blues’ sights since starring in the 2012 City-Country fixture, but he insisted his main focus this week was on playng well for Samoa, who he also represented in last year’s World Cup.

“Obviously I want to play Origin but I am not looking to get ahead of myself,” Leilua said. “I just need to put my head down, work hard and play consistent footy,

“That is what I need to work on. We didn’t have a great season at the Knights, so I have just got to keep working hard and keep playing good footy and hopefully it pays off.

“I just want to play good for my country, play for the boys and play for my family. We just want to play with pride, that is the main thing, and show people what Samoa is all about.”

However, both Leilua and Jennings indicated they had already done plenty of homework on each other.

“It will be a good match-up, he has got good footwork and a lot of speed so I have got to watch out and make sure I am on my game for the whole 80 minutes,” Leilua said.

Jennings said of Leilua: “He is really playing some quality football and it is going to be a massive task for myself but [that] obviously just motivates me more.

“He is big, strong and fast, so you just need to be on your game for the full 80 minutes to stop him. He is a big boy so you have to concentrate on your own performance”.

Jennings has also been in good form for the Kangaroos, scoring a try and making a line break and 17 tackle busts in the Kangaroos’ 30-12 loss to New Zealand and 16-12 triumph over England.

After being overlooked for Greg Inglis at last year’s World Cup, Jennings said the Four Nations was a good chance for him to prove he deserved the Australian left centre spot.

“This is just a great chance for myself to really just knuckle down and show the coaches and the staff that I belong in this arena,” Jennings said.

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