Beware Samoa. Not that the Kiwis need any reminding, but their opening game at Mt Smart shapes as an extremely tough contest.

While much of the focus has been on Tonga ahead of this World Cup, their island neighbours in Group B will be an intimidating proposition on Saturday.

That was reinforced at the team's hotel in Auckland today, as the Toa Samoa team gathered for their pre-tournament photos.

You didn't need the photographer's wide angle lens to note that coach Matt Parish has a tonne of big, powerful individuals, ready to be unleashed on Saturday, in a match where they will have plenty of support from the grandstand.


There's Josh Papalii, who has played nine tests for the Kangaroos, along with fellow wrecking ball Joseph Paulo.

Add in the confrontational style of Sam Lisone, Suaia Matagi and Sam Tagataese, along with captain Frank 'The Tank' Pritchard and you have a forward pack that matches up well with any in the tournament.

That's without considering their backline, where they boast the size and power of Joey Leilua, Ken Maumalo and Ricky Leutele.

The Samoans look light in the halves, especially without the injured Anthony Milford, but they still have enough weapons to replicate their deeds of the 2014 Four Nations, where they came desperately close to beating both England and New Zealand within the space of a week.

The team have had a productive buildup, including a training camp back in Samoa.

"A lot of the boys had never been to Samoa," said Pritchard. "[It was] good to go back to their roots [and] see their culture and heritage. [And] we trained in the heat - some of the boys lost a few kilos."

Unlike the Kiwis, Samoa also had a warm up game (against NSW Country) which Pritchard said got the "cobwebs out" ahead of Saturday's clash.

"We are happy under the radar, to go in as underdogs," said Pritchard. "The main focus for us is to stay in the fight. It's an 80 minute game and we can't afford to switch off. We want to play to our own strengths."