NRL 2021: Australian Kangaroos, Toa Samoa, Jarome Luai, NSW, five eighths open to discuss international future with Australian coach Mal Meninga
NSW eighth Jarome Luai is set to have a conversation with Australia coach Mal Meninga about playing for the Kangaroos, indicating he has yet to make an appeal on his international future.
Luai made his debut for Samoa at the World Cup in 2017 and signaled his intention to help the level two nation mirror its rivals Tonga and become an international power in the future.
The 24-year-old’s strong Samoan connection with Panthers teammates Brian To’o, Stephen Crichton, Tyrone May and Spencer Leniu is also a factor in his decision.
Meninga is a strong advocate for players who play in the interstate arena to engage in the green and gold for tryouts in the same year.
He made no secret that Luai was on his radar after a blazing start to his career in State of Origin for the Blues.
“I saw reports that he wanted to rock me,” Luai said after Penrith’s 13-12 victory over Parramatta on Friday night.
“I haven’t said ‘No’ to anything yet, so it would be pretty cool to chat with him. You absolutely have to respect someone like that and hear what they have to say.
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“I have total respect for what it is for the game.”
Luai will be sent for analysis on a knee injury, but remained confident the problem was only minor after his leg was awkwardly twisted in a tackle leading to Api Koroisau’s try in the second half.
If cleared for Origin III in less than a fortnight, the NSW coach will have to find a playmaker to pair him up at halftime with Nathan Cleary (shoulder) now out.
Luai conceded that he wanted to keep the No.6 role for the Blues and not move on to the controlling half-back role, opening the door for figures like Mitchell Moses and Adam Reynolds to pair him up.
“It’s what I’m used to and the way we’ve always played,” he said.
“Nath hardly missed a game, so I didn’t have too many games out of the seven [jersey].
“It comes with a lot of responsibility, that jersey, but you got guys like Cookie and Teddy to lean on.
“These are big shoes to fill in, but there are a lot of guys out there to help me out.
“Playing with Nath, you kind of see how he sees the game. I’m probably not as good as him, but if I can be half as good as him, you’ll be fine.”
After lining up against Moses, Luai said playmaker Eels was impressive.
“I watched Parra last month and they are playing well and he is playing with a lot of confidence which is really good to see,” he said.
“[There is] no preference. If he comes to camp, he will enter in good shape. I can’t wait if he is the option.
“When I put on this shirt I want to do a good job for the state. He will also be back in NSW so we hope to go 3-0.”