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Posted: 2017-11-03 06:06:29

Rugby league great Steve Renouf says a stint with Samoa is a huge opportunity for Joey Leilua to establish himself as one of the best centres in the game.

Leilua will suit up for Samoa alongside club teammates Josh Papalii and Junior Paulo in a crucial clash against Tonga at Waikato Stadium on Saturday.

They'll face a firing Tongan outfit boosted by tier one nation defectors Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita, and Renouf is itching to see the showdown.

Leilua has been tipped for State of Origin honours in recent seasons and the Pacific grudge match gives him a chance to prove himself in a big game.

"It's a good opportunity, he's a good player. The way he's gone for Canberra, he's been one of their big guns obviously, so for them it's a great opportunity," Renouf said.

"There's been a lot said about players going to play for the country [that is] the origin of their parents and that's good for the league.

"I don't have a problem in that that they can get out there and represent other countries from out of Australia."

Tensions have already boiled over off the field with six people arrested after a brawl between 150 and 200 people in south Auckland on Thursday.

The rampage was triggered by a fan burning a Samoan flag and followed several days of violence in the lead up to the crucial World Cup game between the Pacific nations in Hamilton.

But Tongan and Samoan players have banded together to inspire both cultures to embrace each other, something the Australian side has done with the indigenous community and other cultures around the nation.

Renouf was in Canberra alongside Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga and stars Cooper Cronk and Dane Gagai to promote the Deadly Choices campaign on Friday.

The program encourages indigenous people to get regular health checks - something Renouf laughs he can't remember doing despite growing up in a family with 12 kids.

Renouf lauded the Kangaroos for the welcome to country performed before the tournament opener, with Gagai saying "you don't have to be Indigenous to be proud of the culture and the history this country has".

"[People like Meninga and Cronk] are not Aboriginal, they recognise our culture, it is unique to this country. At the same time we respect everyone's culture," Renouf said.


Saturday: Samoa v Tonga at Waikato Stadium, 5.30pm AEDT.

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