It’s a big job but someone has to do it. For Samoa, Namulauulu Alama Ieremia, is the man who has been entrusted with the task of reviving the fortunes of the Manu Samoa after the failure of the Rugby World Cup campaign last year.
Speaking of last year, the story of Manu Samoa’s World Cup is well known.
A campaign that started out so promisingly with big hopes ended in crushing disappointment and the resignation of the Coach Stephen Betham as well as Manager, Namualuulu Sami Leota.
A few months on as the wave of emotions and anger among supporters appear to have subsided, the Samoa Rugby Union, through a selection a five-person panel – chaired by former All Blacks captain Graham Mourie and made up of S.R.U. and World Rugby representatives – have picked Namulauulu Alama as the man to pick up the baton and run with it.
In making the announcement, S.R.U. Chief Executive Officer Faleomavaega Vincent Fepulea’i said the appointment is about developing and growing rugby.
“We are delighted that Namulauulu will lead our coaching programme, in particular, taking on the Head Coach role for Manu Samoa,” said Faleomavaega. “
“As a professional coach, he knows what is required to deliver results, and as a Samoan, he understands the humility he will need to rebuild support for the team.
“While there were some very competitive applications, Namulauulu’s experience as a leader, his communications skills, and immense knowledge and experience in coaching made him a stand-out candidate.
“We know that Namulauulu shares our vision and desire for the Manu Samoa to be successful on the international stage. He has the playing and coaching pedigree to ensure our national team is organised, professional, competitive, and playing the type of exciting rugby we know is possible.”
Faleomavaega added that ultimately the goal is to develop a winning team.
Well he is absolutely right. Who wants a losing team anyway?
Besides, it would be a wonderful change to see the Manu Samoa win again. The truth is that it has been a long time between drinks when it comes to Samoan rugby and as a rugby mad nation; a winning team is well overdue.
Getting those results though will not be easy. And Namualauulu is well aware about the challenges.
“I am realistic about the challenges that face our Union and our rugby teams,” he said. “It’s exciting to be part of the changes at S.R.U. and my first priority will be to align how we develop our work on the field, with the priorities set off the field.”
Some of those priorities “set off the field” will be beyond Namualuulu’s control.
It involves the S.R.U board members and some of them should have been removed a long time ago. We continue to believe that a team’s winning performance begins from the decisions being made in the boardroom and Samoan rugby is no exception. No amount of changing and sacking coaches will help.
For far too long, Manu Samoa’s performance has been dogged by off field issues, which reflect the lack of accountability, transparency and good governance.
Having said that, we believe it is time to turn a new leaf. Namulauulu Alama might be a chip off the old block in terms of last year’s Manu Samoa management but there is no reason why he cannot make the changes that are necessary.
We accept that many people are skeptical about Namualuulu’s appointment given his involvement in the failed World Cup campaign but we’d like to believe the panel’s decision that he indeed was the best man for the job.
In terms of going forward, former Manu Samoa captain, Daniel Leo’s column titled “The impossible job” underlines some critical areas Namualuulu should consider.
Writes Leo: “In my opinion RWC2015 revealed two key deficiencies in the way we Pacific Islanders approach our rugby. Ieremia will have to address both if he is to reverse Samoa’s fortunes.
Firstly, we have an over reliance on our natural ability, size and strength. Whilst the combination of these ‘uncoachables’ may have been enough in the past, this time round the likes of Japan and Georgia easily counteracted them with superior technique, structure and conditioning.
Here in Europe we see burly islanders drafted in by the dozen for the x-factor quality and power games they possess. Clubs don’t require endurance, discipline or even a full 80 minutes out of these men so long as the individual moments of brilliance, those game changing off-loads or line-bursting breaks keep coming. Clubs have confidence in their ample supply of less gifted but higher conditioned, technically expert players who can cover for the odd mistake or the odd moment of laziness their star Samoan or Tongan ‘impact’ player may have.
Throw 15 impact players into one side though and you have a problem. At RWC2015 both Tonga and Samoa got the balance of their squads wrong. They lacked workhorses. Those types of players who go largely unseen but whose work ethic and low error rates are invaluable: men who are happy to just hit rucks and graft all day.
All of the top sides have their ball players and ball winners. Tonga and Samoa had riches of carriers but too few set piece specialists. Distributors and players with world-class tactical nous were also amiss. Without good quality ball and field position, our impact players were made redundant. Ieremia’s first task with Samoa will be to identify players with such skill sets and instil basic fundamentals and higher conditioning levels within the others; those basics that our professionals in Europe have been allowed to neglect.
The second issue that needs rectifying is the fact Pacific sides don’t play enough games against tier one competition. Argentina is the obvious example here and they need to be our template.
Until recently, the only thing world class about the Pumas was their scrum, Samoa used to beat them consistently. But it’s hard to imagine us even getting close to them today. Argentina didn’t become a top five side by beating the USA, Canada and Romania week in week out, they improved through their involvement in the Rugby Championship.
Yes, there were some thrashings along the way, but eventually it happened. This may be slightly above his line of duty, but with Ieremia’s reputation on the line he should be using every ounce of his influence to push for a higher calibre of opposition than Samoa is currently exposed to in the Pacific Nations Cup.”
We couldn’t agree more.
On that note, let’s welcome and congratulate Namulauulu Alama and give him our support so that he gets the chance to prove himself and revive our rugby fortunes. Have a lovely weekend Samoa, God bless!