Joseph Manu’s star turn at the back has given the Roosters a healthy dilemma in their spine for 2023.
Meanwhile, Jeremiah Nanai has been tipped to start in a full-strength Kangaroos side and Samoa have been shredded for their capitulation to England.
Read on for the World Cup talking points for the first round.
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The Roosters face a healthy dilemma over how to involve Joseph Manu more after playing at the back for New Zealand in their 34-12 win over Lebanon in their Cup opener of the world.
Manu finished with 202 yards running from 21 carries to go with a whopping 12 tackle busts, three offloads, a line hop, two line hop assists, three assists and a brilliant try in a display of the man of the match.
The 26-year-old produced a bizarre chip and went on to beat five defenders to score an early favorite for the tournament try.
Manu’s complete and clinical exit has prompted the Roosters to discuss how to get more of their hands on the ball as they aim to return to the premiership in 2023.
Roosters skipper James Tedesco is unlikely to lose the full-back role but has said he is open to a move to five-eighth or even center at the end of his career to allow Manu, who earns $720,000 per season, and Joseph Suaalii to get a crack at the back.
The Roosters have a lock-up of halves and full-back options with Luke Keary signed until 2024 and Sam Walker until 2023, but he is expected to sign a lucrative extension.
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All five players, including Suaalii, finished last season in fine form, but Manu is making an irresistible case to be close to action at the back or in five-eights.
However, that would likely mean moving Tedesco to center or five-eights, with Luke Keary moving to halfback and Walker on the bench, which would be a massive spinal shake-up.
However, if Manu continues to dominate at the World Cup, the Roosters may have no choice but to involve him more in attack next season if they are to push for a first premiership. since 2019.
SAMOA SLAMMED AS INJURIES CAN ON EMBARRASSED TEAM
Samoa were burned for their poor performance in their 60-6 thrashing at the hands of England in their World Cup opener.
Samoa entered the game as favorites but were knocked out of the park in a crushing performance that has their chances of making the round of 16 on thin ice unless they improve dramatically .
Phil Rothfield slammed Samoa on Sky Sports Radio for their lack of a fight in England’s demolition.
“It was a disgraceful result,” Rothfield said on Sky Sports’ big sports breakfast.
“You don’t like to criticize any of the teams here, but there are a lot of expectations on that side when you look at the squad composition.
“They just had the right to play a lot harder. When we look at their front row with Josh Papalii and Junior Paulo. You look at Joseph Suaalii in the back. You watch four members of the Penrith Grand Final side in the back.
“They were favorites and everyone underestimated this English team, but they were just outstanding and Samoa were terrible.”
Rothfield believes Samoa may regret their decision not to take up the Johns brothers’ offer to coach the team for free at the World Cup.
“You immediately think of coach Matt Parish and Geoff Toovey helping out as an assistant coach,” Rothfield said.
“There was a lot of controversy because Matthew Johns and Andrew Johns had offered to coach the team for free and had player support.
England v Samoa – Full Match Summary | 02:45
“But getting beaten 60-6 in the first game of the tournament with the quality of players they have is just not enough.
“It was really, really poor and a real disappointment for the tournament organizers, who expected to have a very competitive Samoan team.
“If they had competed like Lebanon it would have been okay, but they were abysmal.”
Adding to Samoa’s pain is a horror room, with Tyrone May (hip) out for the tournament and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow (syndesmosis) likely to join him on the sidelines, while Braden Hamlin-Uele (calf) is also in doubt.
Laurie Daley thinks Samoa could be in trouble, although they still have two pool games to try to turn the tide and finish second in their group.
“They have to fight back and produce good football because that’s going to be the big talking point if they don’t,” Daley said.
“When you look at their side they shouldn’t have been beaten by 60 and I’m sure they’ll want to fight back and they’ll need it because if they don’t they’re in for a lot of conflict.”
Rothfield criticized the lack of dominance of Samoa’s star-studded field, who were blown away by their English counterparts.
“Looking at the stats, the most yards by a striker was 65 yards, which was Paulo,” Rothfield said.
“It often indicates dominance of possession on the other side when forwards aren’t getting yards, but it wasn’t too bad. It was 55% from England and 45% from Samoa.
“I think they have a lot of work to do and they need to do it very quickly.”
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NANAI FAVORITE TO START FOR KANGAROO
Young Cowboys gun Jeremiah Nanai has been tagged as the favorite to earn a place in the Kangaroos full-strength back row for the World Cup knockout stages.
Nanai continued his stellar year of trials with another on his debut for Australia in their 42-8 win over Fiji after scoring 16 for the Cowboys, the most of any NRL striker in 2022.
The 19-year-old sensation is a huge point of difference and finished with 58 yards running, four tackle busts, an offload, a line break, a try and 20 clear tackles in his Kangaroos arc.
Nanai teamed up with Angus Crichton in the Kangaroos’ opener, which was also exceptional, with Cameron Murray at the lock.
However, with Panthers skipper Isaah Yeo likely to enter at No 13, Phil Rothfield believes Nanai still deserves a starting spot.
“I thought Jeremiah Nanai was outstanding for Australia,” Rothfield said on Sky Sports’ Big Sports Breakfast.
Australia v Fiji – Full Match Summary | 02:44
“You look at the composition of their pack and they will get serious when they face New Zealand in the semi-finals.
“I think Isaah Yeo will play as a striker and Cameron Murray will be in one side as a second rower.
“But I think Nanai has to be the favorite to play on the other side of what we saw in that first game.
“Mal Meninga obviously has to look at form. There are other options like Crichton and Liam Martin.
“But I thought Nanai was sensational against Fiji.”
DOUEIHI IN HOT WATER AFTER SENDING FOR DISSENT
Lebanon five-eighth Adam could be in doubt for Lebanon’s next game after he was sent off for “rude and abusive language directed at referee Grant Atkins during his team’s World Cup opener.”
Doueihi was sensationally sent off after an altercation with Atkins which involved Lebanese coach Robbie Farah in their 34-12 loss to New Zealand.
It is unclear at this stage whether Doueihi or Farah will face further sanctions following the incident.
In the 59th minute of Lebanon’s clash with the Kiwis, Atkins walked on Doueihi after he and Farah allegedly exchanged words with the referee.
Andrew Voss summed up the confusion surrounding the weird post in the comments box.
“I think coach Robbie Farah got kicked out here,” Voss said. “Robbie Farah was ejected by referee Atkins.
“Well, that’s interesting, Adam Doueihi is going on the sidelines. What happened here?
“Doueihi was expelled. Adam Doueihi left the pitch so there is drama here for Lebanon and they are down to one man now.
Doueihi mysteriously expelled | 01:03
“It looked like a very frustrated referee Grant Atkins there.
“Was it a dissent? You can only imagine he got both player and coach barrels, I’m not sure.
Moments later, after the Kiwis scored, Voss confirmed the reason for the odd send-off.
“Confirmation that this was a dissent from Adam Doueihi,” Voss said.
“I’m just wondering about the circumstances. The kickoff was short and the game was going to continue, but Grant Atkins reacted.
“That must have been pretty gobful.”
Lebanese coach Michael Cheika has admitted the sending off hurt his side’s chances of staying in the competition after a strong start against New Zealand.
“Losing a man, a player in his place, put us out of harm’s way,” said Cheika.
“We have the passion, but sometimes that’s not enough. We have to be able to ensure consistency.