The new man in charge of the Manu Samoa, Namulauulu Alama Ieremia, is optimistic.
The former All Black and Manu Samoa international admits that while there are plenty of challenges and obstacles to overcome, there are also many exciting opportunities on the horizon. On Monday, Namulauulu named his 2016 extended squad for tests against Georgia and Tonga.
The squad features a healthy mix of experienced and new blood – something fans can expect during Namulauulu’s reign.
“First of all I am excited about the squad, I’m heartened by the experienced players who have come back and are willing to play for Manu Samoa again,” he told the Samoa Observer. “I had a great trip up north and there are some players who are very keen to come back and help out which is very pleasing.
“In terms of the younger players coming through the system, I think it is very important to look at that part of our union and our development to making sure we give pathways for them in moving forward.
“In saying that, test rugby is all about winning and we have to make sure we have enough experience to win the very key test qualification matches in June.
“I believe that we have a squad that can do that; it’s very important we keep that as our main focus, we look at these test matches for qualifications and then it also provides an opportunity to still develop some areas of our team that needs looking at.”
Namulauulu is realistic about the challenges – especially in terms of losing players to clubs and other countries.
“In terms of the future, there will always be a turnover rate and I just think that it’s important we don’t have a whole bunch of players retire at once,” he said. “The more players we lose the harder it will be with us not having the experience to bring through as the next generation of Manu Samoan players.
“So transitioning into the next tier and the next breed of players is very important and I believe we really need to have a look at that; we must make sure we get that sorted in moving forward.”
With the current squad having only five locally based players, this may be an issue for local fans but Namulauulu has a reason for this.
“There’s no reason with having only five locally based player, that’s just the realistic level we’re at as of now,” he said. “This is just the number of players we have available locally that are at the level to play for Manu Samoa right now.
“This is such a contentious issue every year and I understand the frustrations locally of our people but we’ve got to make sure that we look at our development time as well as what we are doing to get realistic standards from local players into the test arena.
“I know that is where the union is looking at strategically in terms of developing the local game but as far as test level is concerned we have to move with the times, we have to make sure that test rugby for Manu Samoa is about winning at the international level.
“With the landscape continuously changing and other tier 2 countries improving, we have to be very real about those challenges and if it means there are not that many local players within the team then we have to deal with it, it will always be an issue.
“(But) with the selection of some of the locally based players I hope it sends out a clear message that there is a realistic chance for them to play for Samoa If they come through the system of the Under 20’s, Samoa A and then ultimately the Manu Samoa.”
But before any real preparation is done, Coach Namuluulu has to wait for the arrival of his overseas based players.
“We will assemble on May 29th which is 2 weeks before the test match and then we will be here training right throughout,” he said.
“The finalized test team will be selected a week out from the Georgia game and then we will focus on Tonga the week after.”
Namulauulu urges fans to get excited for the upcoming test matches; his squad will be ready to show some real talent up close and personal.
“I think the key message for Samoa is to get excited about the balance of a squad who has enough experience to operate with as well as new breed of players coming through,” he said.
“I hope the country is excited about the squad because I certainly am, I believe these players who have come through will deliver for Manu Samoa’s development.”