Expect a drastically different look to the Manu Samoa team for their opening game of the Pacific Nations Cup against Fiji in Suva this weekend.
Manu Samoa head coach, Namulauulu Alama Ieremia, has made no secrets about selecting a vastly more experienced team for this week’s assignment, as opposed to the one that included nine debutants, which drew with Georgia last week.
“Fiji is a different opposition and just by looking at their team, they have gone for the experience,” Namulauulu told the Samoa Observer yesterday before the Manu departed for Fiji.
“Like I said before, I was not happy with the result of the game and we’ve reviewed the mistakes and our shortcomings from the game on Saturday.
“Our main focus now is to improve those areas. We let our set piece down and our ball carry, line outs and scrums and possessions. We didn’t have many phases of attack, and we can’t blame the weather.
“So getting our set pieces right is what we are focusing on at the moment in our preparations for our two games coming up. These are very important and tough games ahead of us and we are giving it our all preparing for these games.”
But at least Namulauulu will have some experience to call upon. Joining the Manu Samoa for Fiji are experienced forwards, Sakaria Taulafo, Census Johnston, Viliamu Afatia and Faifili Levave.
Namulauulu said the team that played Georgia was strategically chosen to give younger players an opportunity to shine and put their hands up.
“That game answered a lot of questions we had in terms of some players we wanted to try,” he said. “We’ve done our review and we’ve identified some players who did well and we’ll take it from there.
“There were some impressive players from the game on Saturday, but there were also some players that did not do so well. There will be a lot of changes in the team to play against Fiji. We’ve got some experienced players who just arrived.
“And also some players who played against Georgia who forced their way through selection through their form.”
In the backline, the arrival of Pelefofoga Cowley and Tusiata Pisi have boosted the team’s stock in terms of experience. The bad news is that Paul Perez has been ruled out with an injury.
“All in all, as I mentioned we’ve got about eight or nine players coming in and it will make a lot of changes to the squad. But that was always the plan and some of the young players have put their hand up and they will be rewarded at the final selection for the team.”
Coach Namulauulu said they are happy that there were no serious injuries from the game with Georgia.
“There were just a few bumps and bruises. Motu Matu’u is one of the guys under an injury cloud at the moment, he’s still training and he is also on the travelling squad for Fiji.”
So how can the Manu Samoa beat Fiji?
“With the arrival of some of our experienced rugby players, our front row has changed. And Tusi who is obviously one of our playmakers is joining the squad again and his combination with Rey Lee Lo is obviously something we are looking at in terms of moving forward. Pele Cowley, one of our key half-backs is joining us as well.
“So it’s quite a different dynamic as to the team that played against Georgia. Reality is, these are the key games, (Tonga and Fiji) so we have to take a decent squad to the games.
“And we are working really hard with these experienced players along with some of our new players in preparing for the game with Fiji. We are focusing on the errors and mistakes we learnt from the previous game to move forward and we will see that in the game with Fiji.”
The team and management of the Manu Samoa left the country yesterday. And the Head Coach, Namulauulu wanted to thank the country for their support and asked the country to have faith in the team, as they will do their best to make us proud.
“I just want to thank our country and our fans. You know as a Samoan, we try our best to obviously please and satisfy our fans. And we are hurting from the performance and obviously the results and we feel that we’ve let a lot of people down, and let ourselves down.
But the boys are keen to rectify that and the pressure doesn’t get any lighter.
We’ve got a big game coming up with Fiji and I just want to say to the country to hang in there and we will do our best to make sure that we have a better performance to make them proud.”