Manu Samoa coach Steve Jackson is glad to be back in Samoa for what will be an exciting year preparing for the Rugby World Cup in Japan in September and October.
Jackson is visiting Savaii today (weather permitting), and will attend the Vailima Marist International Sevens Tournament on Friday and Saturday.
He said he wants to take every opportunity to watch Samoa’s rugby talent.
“If we can get one or two gems out of this weekend, or the Super 9.
“Also for me it’s about getting around and talking to the coaches, to find out where we can help.”
He said going to games live is key to evaluating players.
“You can hear them talking, you can meet them after the game.”
He will also be a part of the Samoa A campaign for the World Rugby Pacific Challenge, to get a good look at the island-based players and understand them as people too.
“I get to live with these guys for a couple weeks.
“What makes them tick and how can I help them develop.”
After that, Jackson and Manu Samoa assistant coach Alistair Rogers will come back to watch Super 9 on the weekends, while working with local coaches and players during the week.
Jackson said last year’s technical advisors Chris Latham and Ben Afeaki will likely be involved in the Rugby World Cup campaign as well, however that is yet to be finalised.
“For me to have the continuity, and people around me that we can trust moving forward is really important.”
The general manager of High Performance role recently vacated by Zane Hilton remains unfilled.
Jackson said it is still being decided how much anyone hired to that role would be involved in the World Cup campaign, with such limited time left.
The Manu Samoa will play test matches against Tonga, USA and Fiji in the Pacific Nations Cup over July and August, before two further matches against Tonga and Fiji at Apia Park in the lead up to the World Cup.
Jackson said there will be a lot more players coming into the team than were available to go on last year’s Northern Hemisphere Tour.
“The team that comes to Pacific Nations Cup, hopefully predominantly will be the players that will take the field at Rugby World Cup.”
He said conditioning, mental skill and leadership were identified as things to work on from the Northern Hemisphere Tour.
“We understand that they’re in their own environments at the moment and we can’t influence a lot.”
But expectations have been set for the standards players need to be at coming into Manu Samoa camp in June/July.
“Making sure our players are mentally and physically capable of playing the way we need to play.
“The big key for us as a management group, because we’re gonna be together so long, 3.5 to 4 months, is how we’re gonna motivate and stimulate them.”
Jackson said the Pacific Nations Cup will not be about getting results necessarily, something he has made clear to the board.
“We’re looking more at what we’re doing on a day to day basis.
“Predominantly that’s with an eye to the Rugby World Cup and how we wanna play the game.”