The man entrusted with the task of reviving the Manu Samoa’s fortunes after the disappointment of the Rugby World Cup is realistic about the challenges.
Newly appointed coach, Namulauulu Alama Ieremia, arrived in the country this week to assume his role and he has already identified a critical part of his job.
“The future of the Manu Samoa is really about the need to improve the Under 20s and Samoa A programmes,” he said. “We need to improve the standards of those competitions and teams so there’s a clear pathway for overseas and local players into the Manu Samoa.”
For Namulauulu, his focus is improving the performance at grassroots level, with an eye on the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
To get there though, Samoa needs to go through a qualifying tournament first.
“I’m very keen to improve the local scene in terms of the quality of rugby and the depths of players,” he said.
“I’m pretty excited about getting the High Performance Unit right here at the Union. I think it’s important that strategically we have a fit for purpose approach to most of our projects which are our Under 20s teams, Samoa A progammes, and Sevens. The key strategy is moving forward.”
Namulauulu says that at present, there is a lot of reliance on overseas-based players. He doesn’t foresee that changing anytime soon.
Ultimately, however, he said the goal should be to develop local talents.
Yesterday, Namulauula and the S.R.U had a strategy meeting on how the Union plans to move forward. High-level discussions about the operational side of how this will all be carried out for the next four years were conducted.
“I thought it was very refreshing to start, working with the rugby union with the end goal in mind and the key outcomes that we want.
“It feels like a high performance environment already in terms of coaches, players and staff.”
Expectations and responsibilities are the key areas Namulauulu wants to get right, as well as communication and transparency being at the forefront in terms of moving forward.
Namulauulu said he plans to use his extensive network of former players and rugby identities if needed that stretch from New Zealand, Australia, and the UK.
He has already started the process with the reforms at the Union.
The collation and the bringing together is something he is keen to utilize.
The obvious challenge for Namulauulu now is the rebuilding of the Manu Samoa, but is excited to see where they could actually take it throughout the year as they prepare for Test Matches coming up in June.
“From a coach’s point of view, certain areas and positions need to be addressed,” he said. “We need to have a good first up season as well as make sure we blood some new players into the team involving both overseas and local talent.
“We are working on getting the development plan right, and ensuring that management and the coaching structure is correct for the Manu Samoa while operating at a high performance level that will bring out the best results.”
Namulauulu debuted for the Manu Samoa in 1992-1993.
He then continued playing for the All Blacks from 1994-2000. Ieremia spent 7 years in Japan where he played for 4 years, and coached for 3 years. He became a coach for the Hurricanes from 2009-2014 and finally the Manu Samoa Technical Advisor from 2014-2015.
With his extensive experience with rugby, Ieremia says he is pretty much ready and confident in doing what needs to be done.
But he claims he is also a realistic person, as he knows some may take awhile and some of the challenges will not please everyone, but says now is the time to do it.
Now that all the programmes are in place, his next initiative is to attack these projects that are currently in process.
Current focus is on the Samoa A Programme with a pre season match against the Melbourne Rebels Super Rugby Team in February and the Tier 2 Development Tournament held in Fiji this coming March.