Wild Samoan ride nears a fairytale ending

Samoa's win over England sent shockwaves across the globe and could cause further reverberations if they down Australia in the Rugby League World Cup final.

At London's Emirates Stadium, the small sections of Samoan supporters let out endless cries of "chee-hoo" as they basked in the 27-26 semi-final victory.

On the streets of Apia, Western Sydney, South Auckland and the US, there were motorcades packed with Samoans live-streaming their horn-tooting, flag-waving celebrations to the world.

"Sunday is the day of rest back home, you're not actually allowed out," captain Junior Paulo said.

Samoa will become the first tier-two nation - and just the sixth team ever - to play in a World Cup final when they face Australia at Old Trafford next Saturday (Sunday AEDT).

It is a moment which has the potential to reshape the international game.

"There needs to be a structured calendar for international footy to thrive," Samoa coach Matt Parish said.

"The only way you start is by starting somewhere."

Parish's side - as he put it, "a little dot in the Pacific" - had done what few imagined they could.

The rise of rugby league's Pacific nations was started by Tonga in 2017, led by heritage players turning down the riches of Australia and New Zealand.

They beat the Kiwis in that tournament, ran England close the same year and then knocked off Great Britain and Australia in 2019.

While Tonga were basking in the glory of their achievements, Samoa were at their lowest ebb.

They got to the quarter-finals in 2017 without winning a game and Paulo and teammate Josh Papalii had returned to Canberra overweight.

There have been an immeasurable number of complaints - on and off the record, and from players past and present - about Parish's erratic tenure.

Even at this tournament he has been cranky, asking media after the team's win over France whether they would "write the truth".

Six members of this World Cup squad - Anthony Milford, Josh Papalii, Josh Aloiai, Brian To'o, Jarome Luai and Tim Lafai - last year signed a petition calling for the country's prime minister to sack Parish as coach.

There was fevered speculation that the Johns brothers, Andrew and Matthew, along with New Zealander-Samoan Sonny Bill Williams might pick up the reins.

Rugby League Samoa, though, reaffirmed their commitment to Parish.

Whether their success at this tournament is down to Parish's coaching or to the calibre of players Samoa can attract is up for debate.

The bells were beginning to toll for Parish when Samoa arrived in England for the World Cup and copped a 60-6 hiding at the hands of the hosts.

In spite of that, they have risen to each challenge - buoyed by the support from Samoans across the world, exacting revenge against England along the way to a final against the Kangaroos.

"What we've been able to create hasn't gone unnoticed," Paulo said.

"We see it on social media, it's not only for Samoa but for the people of the Pacific.

"For us to go out there and play, the impact that has, it's probably the biggest achievement."

Beating Australia at Old Trafford might just outdo that.