Try telling Sia Soliola the World Cup means nothing

Try telling Sia Soliola the Rugby League World Cup is meaningless - he'd do anything to be the 11th Canberra player launching a raid on the Paul Barri??re Trophy.

Soliola has been left with a "bittersweet" taste in his mouth after elbow surgery ruined his chances of playing for Samoa or New Zealand in the World Cup.

But the Raiders will still be well-represented at the World Cup despite a disappointing season that saw Canberra crash out of finals contention.

Canberra boasts 10 players across five different nations despite an Australian snubbing, with the premiership-winning Melbourne Storm leading the way with 13.

"You can't argue with the talent that we have in the squad and that was one of the biggest disappointments about our season, because we know what we have in the squad," Soliola said.

"'Frustrating' is the word that always comes to mind when you think about this season, but it's done and dusted and we're all ready to move on."

Raiders back-rower Elliott Whitehead will partner Josh Hodgson in the English squad, while Jordan Rapana and Joe Tapine will turn out for New Zealand.

Josh Papalii headlines the Samoan squad alongside Junior Paulo and Joey Leilua, Kurt Baptiste and Kato Ottio will play for Papua New Guinea, and young gun Mikaele Ravalawa has been drafted into the Fijian squad.

Whitehead says the sheer weight of Green Machine members playing on international rugby league's biggest stage is a testament to what they are capable of.

"It shows what quality we've got in the team," Whitehead said.

"Overall I think there might be 10 of us playing in the World Cup so it just just shows we've got international players. We didn't have the best season this year but hopefully we can fix that up [next] season.

"Those boys will go play in the World Cup and have a break, but then we'll come straight back in to training and get straight back involved with the other boys."

Raiders players will return to club headquarters for pre-season testing on November 1, before hooking into training a few days later.

Soliola says those not involved in the World Cup are already doing "a lot of hard work" as they look to force their way back into finals contention.

The 31-year-old veteran is among them, but he desperately wishes he was playing in the tournament he believes could change the rugby league landscape.

Soliola has played four Tests for Samoa and 11 for New Zealand, and says Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita's shock 11th hour defection to Tonga is good for the game.

"For rugby league, in terms of competitiveness, I think it will be a good thing," Soliola said.

"The way they went about it, yes, it could have been better. That's where a lot of the attention has gone, how they've gone about it.

"But the decision and what they've done, I think it's a huge coup for rugby league, solely because it's going to encourage a lot of kids to actually look at considering playing for the smaller nations.

"[Young players will be] thinking about the bigger picture, strengthening rugby league as a whole and maybe not thinking about their profile.

"They could easily go to New Zealand or play for Australia and done well in that, but to plant the seed and maybe one day leave a legacy, maybe one day it could be much, much greater.

"I think that's what they saw in playing for Tonga. That's just solely my opinion. They could have gone about it a little bit better, but for the bigger picture I think they made the right decision."


England: Josh Hodgson and Elliott Whitehead

New Zealand: Jordan Rapana and Joseph Tapine

Papua New Guinea: Kurt Baptiste and Kato Ottio

Samoa: Joey Leilua, Junior Paulo, Josh Papalii

Fiji: Mikaele Ravalawa

This story Try telling Sia Soliola the World Cup means nothing first appeared on Brisbane Times.