Samoa star Jarome Luai is looking forward to playing in England for the first time at the upcoming World Cup and is expecting a “crazy” atmosphere in their opener against the hosts.
The Penrith Panthers playmaker has elected to represent his Samoan heritage in his second World Cup rather than Australia, the country of his birth.
Samoa are in a group alongside France, Greece and hosts England. They meet the latter in the opening game at St James’ Park in Newcastle on October 15.
“It’s definitely a big test for our side,” Luai told The Roar’s World Cup Chasers podcast. “Obviously I need to get picked first but if that does come intro fruition then it is exciting times for Samoa and England because it is the opener in their back turf, so it’ll be pretty crazy.
“I haven’t really travelled anywhere for footy apart from NZ and here in Australia. It will be my first time playing in England. I’ve heard it’s pretty chilly over there so I’ll have to pack some puffy jackets and some skins as well.
“I heard it’s going to be pretty hostile (atmosphere) which is cool. I’ve played in Suncorp, Origins and against Tonga in New Zealand where the crowds are massive so it will be next level.”
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Luai, who is known as the chief energy officer at reigning NRL champions Penrith, is immensely proud of his Samoan heritage.
He was born and raised in Sydney, Australia and is of Maori and American Samoan background. His grandparents hail from the tiny village of Palauli in Samoa.
Luai actually made his international debut for Samoa at the last World Cup in 2017, a year before his NRL bow.
“I’m pretty thankful for them giving me an opportunity (in 2017) to be around those guys in camp,” Luai said.
“There’ll be a few more guys in that kind of situation where I was a few years ago. I’ll try to do the same for them and be that leader and role model for them and let my footy do the talking. I’ve played in a lot of big games now so those experiences will definitely help me be a leader.
“Samoan culture has family are the forefront so that’s something we try to portray in the games and be happy everyday at training with each other.
“It’s good for the next generation to have the older guys there. They have been there and done it before and live and breathe Samoa, as Marty (Taupau) does. He’s very passionate about Samoan culture and what he’s going to bring to the team will be huge for our younger boys.
“I’ve only been to Samoa once and that was with the last World Cup. I was lucky enough to get back there and see Samoa and what goes on there – and that’s what makes me so passionate about the heritage inside of me. It’s been a few years now since 2017 but hopefully we can go well (at the World Cup) and then maybe we can go back to Samoa.”
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