The truth about tonight’s test match at Apia Park is quite difficult to comprehend. Manu Samoa might be playing at home infront of their passionate supporters which normally should translate to a hefty advantage. To an extent that will certainly be the case.
But if you thought that would make the task of overcoming Wales easier, you might want to think again. In a rugby mad country who have ridiculously high expectations for their national team, it would be fair to say Wales have an easier task today.
Coming away with a reasonable win against Tonga last week, they have got nothing to lose. All they have to do is turn up, do the basics right and work hard enough to secure the win. Which they are more than capable of doing. There is little pressure on them, which might well be the deciding factor tonight.
It’s not that simple for the Manu Samoa.
With the weight of a nation’s expectations on their shoulders, they have an unenviable task of not just taking on Wales but ensuring they achieve a result for their supporters and fans who are desperate for success.
You see, despite the fact the Manu Samoa was handsomely beaten 78-0 last week by the All Blacks, this country expects them to win. No ifs, no buts. Anything less will not be good enough.
Which is the challenge ahead of captain David Lemi and his men when they step out for the great occasion this evening. It’s an unenviable task but the outcome will obviously be determined by how much the men in blue want it.
What happened last week was disappointing. We can analyze the performance until we’re blue in the face but the fact of the matter remains that for all the hisses and roar, the team came away with a massive hiding. Yes it was great for 20 minutes but it wasn’t good enough. It was pathetic in fact when their defense systems capitulated in the second half opening the floodgates for the All Blacks to score at will.
To be fair to the Manu Samoa, it was their first game. A number of those players who ply their trade in the UK hadn’t played for a good four weeks before they took on the All Blacks. It was always going to be a massive ask to test yourself against the best when they are coming off in tip top shape in the middle of super rugby.
That said, last week is now history.
Tonight’s occasion is an opportunity and a brand new one at that for the Manu Samoa to restore pride into the jersey. We have a history of beating Wales. It would be wonderful if they continue that tonight.
By the way, it would be wrong for anybody to underestimate this Welsh team. Yes they might be missing some key players due to the Lions tour but the squad they have named is equally potent and they have some exciting new talent in there. For a number of these players, this is their chance to impress. And what better way of doing that than beating Manu Samoa at Apia Park?
There’s no doubt that coach Namulauulu Alama Ieremia and captain Lemi are aware about the enormity of the task ahead of them tonight. But if we were to take some lessons from last week, the first thing they need to do is fix their defense. Then they need to ensure consistency with the set pieces. Purely looking at the team on paper, there are some exciting attacking players in the starting line up. The decision to move Alapati Leiua to the wing is a good one but he needs space and ball. Rey Lee Lo and Kieron Fonotia should be exciting to watch if they find their rhythm and given quality ball to play with.
There is a lot of experience between Tusi Pisi and Kahn Fotuali’i and if push comes to shove, they should be the go-to players to guide the team home.
Looking at the bench, the hometown hero will undoubtedly be Tila Mealoi who we hope we will get the chance to see. It’s a big occasion for the young man from Vaiala and we know how good he can be.
All in all, it’s going to be an exciting game. It’s going to be tough, brutal at times but the winner will be determined by how composed either team will be.
For Wales, they need to keep their minds on the job and try and tune out the Samoan crowd.
For Manu Samoa, they need to relax, forget about last week, enjoy their rugby and play with the passion and pride previous teams of the past have shown – especially against Wales.
We’ve slayed the Welsh Dragon under worse circumstances in the past, there is no reason why we cannot do it again tonight. Go Manu Samoa, o outou mama na!