New captain, Chris Vui, is ready to lead the Manu Samoa against Scotland tomorrow morning.
And despite the money crisis facing the Samoa Rugby Union (S.R.U.) which continues to dominate headlines about Samoan rugby, Vui said that should not be a factor.
Their sole focus is to play well and try to secure a much-needed win.
A victory over Scotland in Murrayfield tomorrow morning will do wonders to lift the spirits of Samoans who have wholeheartedly pledged $400,000 this week to help the bankrupt S.R.U, after Chairman and Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, pledged for help.
Captain Vui said the generosity shown has been great.
“It is quite cool,” he told the Sunday Times in the UK.
“There are fans and loyal supporters, others who just love rugby, who care about us. We don’t get paid as much as other teams. It is quite touching as players to see that, to see people caring.”
Back to the test match, Vui said the players remain focused on what they need to do.
“We are here to try and get our country where it should be rugby-wise,” he said.
“We were up here [seventh in the world rankings] a few years ago and we have come back down to here [16th on the current standings]. Our sole focus is to get our country back to where it should be.
“I feel that it [the financial trouble] is not part of our concern, it is the union. We have a tight group here and it has not affected us at all. In the time in Scotland the bond between us has been awesome. That stuff outside rugby has not affected us one single bit.
“The boys love playing for their country. We are a unique country, a unique band of brothers. We may not have the best things, the stuff other unions have, but we have a real good brotherhood. That pride in our jersey means a lot more than anything.”
Samoa will field pretty much a new team.
Just five among this side featured in the World Cup match against Scotland two years ago, and two of those are being fielded in different positions — Tim Nanai Williams switching from full back to fly half and Jack Lam from openside flanker to No 8.
Just 24 years old, Vui will lead the team for the first time, winning his sixth cap.
“It is a huge honour to captain your country, it does not come often; it is a surprise,” he said. “I will love to lead my country out there for the first time.”
Add a new coaching staff led by Fuimaono Titimaea Tafua, appointed only in September, and playing commitments last weekend which meant the full squad did not meet up until Monday, and Samoa have enough troubles without having to shoulder the administrative ones as well.
Samoa also have a point or two to prove to Scotland, particularly Paul Perez, the Toulouse wing who is also their vice-captain.
Not only was he involved in the World Cup match when Samoa outscored Scotland five-three on tries but still lost 36-33, with the final Scottish score seeming to start with a knock-on, but he still harbours resentment over a game in 2012 when Scotland pulled off an extra-time win in Apia, the capital of Samoa.
In that match he was racing away for the try which would have sealed Samoa’s win, only to be called back for a highly dubious ruling that a Scottish player had stepped over the touchline before delivering the wild offload Perez had latched on to.
“I’m still angry about it,” Perez said. “Especially during the World Cup, it inspired me. It was not fair. I had given my all playing in front of fans back home. I am still angry about it.
“The Newcastle game [in the World Cup], it was a nightmare. Now, I just can’t wait to get out there. All the talking stops and the action starts.
“We need to be direct but we need to defend as well. I have seen the Scotland team and they are some of the best players I have come across; we will need to match their physicality. I am sure Scotland will bring their A game — it is not an easy game for us.”
With motivation like that, there is no chance the off-field money matters are going to have the slightest influence on the 80 minutes of action.
“We just do it for the jersey and our loved ones back home,” Perez added. “It matters a lot … the jersey and the people back home. It will be an exciting game, the crowd is going to be crazy, I can’t wait.”