Manu Samoa selectors have announced a 27-man squad for the team set to face the All Blacks next week in Apia.
At a luncheon organised by the Samoa Rugby Union for players and sponsors, Manu Samoa Team Manager Namulauulu Sami Leota read out the list of 27 players – split between 15 forwards and 12 backs – including two new caps, after Prime Minister and Chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union (SRU), Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, delivered the keynote address to officially mark the occasion.
“All players would have received words of wisdom from your families, friends and just about everyone you stand next to on the streets of Apia. You will have to forgive us and our people for our enthusiasm. The message being conveyed in different ways is the same: Do your utmost – play strong, play smart and win,” said the Prime Minster.
Tuilaepa said he and the SRU have had a “heart to heart” talk about the match with the Team and expects that there will be more talks between the coaches and players right up to game time.
“In the heat of battle, in the throes of competition on the field, facing your opposition; the right words are needed to steady the nerves, adjust tactics and set the play – to encourage greater effort and performance.
“It is all about encouragement for our players – to do your absolute best when the time comes,” said the Chairman.
With more words of encouragement for players about to represent their small island nation, Tuilaepa recalled Samoa’s successful hosting of the SIDS Conference in 2014. The conference – the biggest meeting ever held in the Pacific region – brought thousands of delegates from the United Nations and the world to Samoa.
“The resounding success of the conference was the product of many hands,” said Tuilaepa.
He said this success was through successful partnerships with many of Samoa’s friends, but noted that “from within our country, it was the combined effort of all our people that was pivotal for its success.”
“The contributions of sponsors are vital to our national endeavours in all the different sectors of our country’s socio-economic development, including sports.
Added the Prime Minister,
“We have a history-making event on our hands. One of my colleagues in the New Zealand Government sent his best wishes for the match between our two countries and said that whatever the outcome, it will be a memorable one. He seemed very confident of the outcome and his memorable memories already a given.
“Whilst I agree that we have a historic event on our hands, my response to my colleague is inspired by the memorable response of a US field commander during Pacific World War II – when asked if the invasion of a beach head in a fierce island battle was secure, the reply was: “The issue is in doubt.“
Meanwhile, Manu Samoa coach Stephen Betham is encouraged with preparations in the lead up to the match next Wednesday.
“We have had a reasonably good week of preparations with the wider squad, and there were some great individual performances during training yesterday.
“Local boy Failaga Afamasaga had an outstanding showing yesterday in the training game and we simply couldn’t leave him out. We’re also delighted to have Tim Nanai Williams join us for his first selection – he’s an exciting addition to the backline and has slotted in well in to the team environment,” said Betham.
The squad also sees the return of Census Johnson, who was asked to reconsider his retirement and make himself available for selection. Betham says Johnson’s experience in the front-row will be crucial in the battle up front.
“Our task now is to consolidate our combinations and getting our basics right. The All Blacks are a class team, the world’s best for a reason. We know Samoa’s dreams for the Manu Samoa are a huge challenge, but we’re up for it and the boys are up for it,” said Betham.
Beyond next week’s Test, Samoa’s Coach says he’s mindful of the difficult travel schedule ahead – North America for the Pacific Nations Cup before assembling for two matches in the United Kingdom before the Rugby World Cup.
According to Betham, the players who have missed out on the squad for the Test against New Zealand, will remain with the wider squad as he looks ahead to the next campaign.
Prior to the announcement of the 27-man squad, the Manu Samoa team visited Parliament during its morning session today at the TATTE Conference Centre at Sogi. Players received the blessing of Members of Parliament and enjoyed a meet-and-greet with Samoa’s Legislators.
The Test Team to play the All Blacks will be announced on Monday.
The historic game will take place next Wednesday at the Apia Park stadium.
Wayne Ole Avei
Saleimoa, Leauvaa and Samata
Manono and Safune
Solosolo and Fasitootai
Asau and Malie
Solosolo, Faleapuna, Safune, Matatufu, Saleaaumua
Ofisa Trevarinus (Captain)
Toamua, Lefaga, Safata
Toamua, Lefaga, Safata
Tim Nanai Williams
Ah See Tuala