Cleary braces for Luai's wind-up tactics

Australia halfback Nathan Cleary is expecting a verbal joust and a bit of niggle with Penrith teammate Jarome Luai as the pair prepare to face each other for the first time in nearly 10 years.

Over the last three seasons, Cleary and Luai have won two premierships and two minor premierships together as well as featuring alongside each other in State of Origin for NSW.

But their friendship will be put to one side this weekend when Australia take on Samoa in the Rugby League World Cup final at Old Trafford, with the underdogs buoyed by a shock victory over England.

Luai has already fanned the flames for an explosive encounter, declaring that "on the field there are only brothers and enemies".

Cleary took Luai's comments with a pinch of salt but is prepared for the Samoan five-eighth's provocative on-field manner.

"He's always been a pest, he's always had that confidence as a player," Cleary said.

"I'm pretty used to (Luai trying to get under my skin), that's how he plays and when he's at his best.

"He was the superstar in the Penrith district people in my team were talking about before we played them - and then you'd see what all the chat was about; the step, he was fast and had that X-factor."

Luai has won three man of the match awards while leading Samoa to their first final, dismissing a long-held view that he was reliant on Cleary to thrive.

"I don't think that knock has ever come from within," Cleary said. "We know the player that Jarome is.

"That has always been outside noise, and it's cool to see him going well - hopefully not too well this weekend."

Cleary was under immense pressure coming into this tour.

Pitched into a battle with Daly Cherry-Evans by head coach Mal Meninga for the halfback role, Cleary has risen to the challenge.

He was thoroughly tested in Australia's semi-final win over New Zealand, and in testing English conditions has not enjoyed the remarkable goalkicking accuracy he is used to back home.

At 25 - a birthday he celebrated with cake on Monday in Kangaroos camp - Cleary might by Sunday have achieved everything there is in the game.

"You don't really look back too often," he said. "Maybe after this game I'll have the opportunity to savour the year that was.

"It's been an unbelievable journey and I've really enjoyed it - it's always going to have its ebbs and flows, and ups and downs.

"But the highs that you can experience are like nothing else in life."