Prime Minister and the Chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union (S.R.U), Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, is standing by under-sieged coach of the losing Manu Samoa team, Namulauulu Alama Ieremia.
Amidst a wave of angry rugby fans calling for his sacking, Tuilaepa has called for cool heads as the Union comes to terms with the national team’s unprecedented 16th place ranking in the world.
It follows four losses from all four test matches this year.
Speaking during the Taimi ma le Palemia television programme on TV1, Tuilaepa said he understands that people are angry.
“And the Coach is always the one facing the barrel of the gun,” he said. “When the supporters are happy the coach is the hero. When Manu Samoa loses, the coach is treated as a villain and the target of criticisms.”
But in the case of Namulauulu, the S.R.U Chairman is convinced that the former Manu Samoa center who played five test games for Samoa debuting in 1992 still has a lot to offer.
“He (Namulauulu) has a lot to offer and from his strategic plan I am confident that a lot of good things will happen to the Manu Samoa under his coaching leadership,” he said.
“There are times that we must accept both the good and the bad results to produce better and excellent results.
“And as we all know, when it comes to our Manu Samoa it is more than our flag carrier but also represents our sports passion and identity as among the best sports achievers in the world.”
To that effect, Tuilaepa says that the S.R.U Board is also analyzing the results to determine where the Manu Samoa went wrong during its last four outings.
But he was quick to note that some of the senior players need to step down and allow the new blood in as a lead up to the World Cup.
“It’s a huge ask but that’s reality and its needs to be addressed if Manu Samoa will field the best of the best in the 2019 World Cup in Japan,” he said.
And there is hope still for the Manu Samoa to qualify for the World Cup.
The first route will be a home and away elimination playoff against a team from the Europe 2 region.
Russia and Romania are seen as two of the most likely matchups for the Manu Samoa next June. If so either Russia or Romania will host the Manu Samoa and in return will play at Samoa’s hunting grounds at the Apia Park.
The other qualifying option if the Manu Samoa missed out again is the repechage round with Spain, Portugal, and qualifiers from North Africa and South America.
Subsequently, Manu Samoa has a northern hemisphere tour in November to play Romania, Scotland and England to close out the rugby season for this year.