Former rugby players and icons share the expectations, hopes and the weight felt by Manu Samoa ahead of Saturday’s match against Germany.
Junior Poluleuligaga (Junior Polu) acknowledges the importance of this match if Samoa is to be represented in the World Cup stating that “Samoa has been a part of every World Cup except the inaugural 1987 tournament. It's important that we still are showcasing our god gifted talents on the world stage.”
Polu represented Samoa in the 2007 and 2011 Rugby World Cups as well as the Pacific Nations Cup so he knows the importance of Samoa being represented in the World Cup to the international rugby community, as well as to Samoans at home.
“The next generation aspires to be Manu Samoa players when they grow up so it’s vitally important that we are competing against the best with our unique and exciting brand of Samoan rugby. It’s our national sport, our Manu Samoa players are our national heroes.”
Rugby Union legend and former technical advisor to Samoa, Frank Bunce believes this game means more than simply qualifying for the World Cup, it determines Samoa’s place in rugby union’s future.
“In terms of Samoa on the world stage, it’s very important. They’ve almost been in a steady decline from a few years ago and to be honest, Samoa shouldn’t even be playing this game."
"The rugby World Cup without Samoa is just not the same.”
In order for Manu to succeed in their match against Germany, Bunce believes the team must stick to basics and minimise errors stating “I wouldn’t be too worried about entertaining or playing entertaining rugby, I’d just be concentrating on the basics and making sure that they get the win.”
Similarly, Polu has also expressed they must play to their strengths. He also noted that their physicality, raw talent, and ability to maintain speed of play is among their greatest assets they need to capitalise on.
“Manu Samoa rugby is globally known for its big thunderous tackles and its physicality in the contact areas of the game. We're also well known to score exciting length of the field tries by keeping the ball alive with our ability to offload and power through tackles using clever footwork. Set piece scrums and lineouts have been steady if not then up with the best.”
“Samoa needs to be dominant in the set piece to allow a good attacking platform for the backs. The Germans will be physical at the breakdown, but I think the size and power of our players will be too much for them.”
As Samoa have been known to have size and power which can be difficult to compete with for European teams, Polu believes the breakdown and defense play are expected to have a significant role in Saturday’s final decision.
Polu stated: “If we can be accurate at the breakdown and ruthless with our defense policies then I can see the Manu winning comfortably but they must respect their opposition because Germany have not come all this way to make up the numbers.”
Both Bunce and Polu believe that with Manu Samoa having the home advantage, it is the relationship between the team and the community that will ultimately impact the game.
Polu believes that although recent results have not been favourable “no matter what deep down all our people still support the team, all Samoans worldwide will be behind them without a doubt.”
Bunce expresses it is this unwavering support that Manu Samoa need in order to gain the confidence to win.
“You’ve got to support your team, through good and bad. The players know when it’s there and they know when it’s not there and so it’s a huge benefit when it is there.”