World Cup qualification top priority for Samoa Rugby Union
The Samoa Rugby Union (S.R.U.) has got a plan up their sleeves to improve the current rankings of the Manu Samoa 15s side in the International Rugby Board (I.R.B.) world ranking.
But first, it’s trying to qualify for the 2019 World Cup to be held in Japan from September 20 – November 2. This is according to the S.R.U. Chief Executive Officer, Faleomavaega Vincent Fepulea’i.
“Our priority at the moment is the qualifications to the World Cup. I can tell you right now we have put everything into it for the past six months to try and select our best players to help us qualify. We are putting all our eggs into one basket to ensure we qualify this time,” Faleomavaega said.
The Manu Samoa side is ranked 16th and Faleomavaega says they are working really hard to develop the players given most Samoan players play professional rugby in clubs in Europe and Japan.
“The ranking is based on the national team. I think we’re well aware of where we are at the moment. We work as hard as we can to ensure we develop our players, unfortunately our players are spread right across the world,” he said.
“It’s a huge incentive for our players to be involved in the best tournaments in the world and I think that would hopefully contribute to some of our players who are born in New Zealand. Not everyone becomes a Wallaby or an All Black, but there is also an opportunity to play for Samoa.
“But our ranking at the moment, I think we’re working hard around that. We will play the qualifications coming up and hopefully get in to a pool where we feel we have an opportunity to make it to the quarters.”
Faleomavaega said they are working really hard with their technical staff to turn things around during the Pacific Nations Cup qualifiers to be held in Suva, Fiji in June – July this year.
“It’s all a matter of trying to put everything in place and hopefully the results will fix itself and improve on our current rankings.”
Like everything else, there are always logistical challenges.
“Fiji is not too bad because I think for Samoa and Tonga a lot of our players play in Europe, so it’s quite a huge cost to bring them over to play and come in June to play in the P.N.C. because that’s after their season over there, so we pick them up from Auckland or Australia. It’s still a huge cost,” Faleomavaega said.
“Those are the logistics challenges that we have and then coming off a long season is also difficult, but if they were playing in the competition in the Southern Hemisphere, that would be really awesome.”
Faleomavaega admitted it’s a costly exercise, but they would do whatever it takes to improve their game.
“We are always looking for sponsorship; it doesn’t matter where it comes from as long as it can fuel our teams in the international stage.
“We pledge for their support and patience around our team. We’re doing quite a lot of fundraising coming up; it’s an important year for us. Manu Samoa 15s will be coming up very shortly into the P.N.C. in Fiji. It’s quite a huge financial burden on the union to fuel those teams and also our Under 20s, Under 18s and Manu Samoa 7s team.
“It’s not easy, but these are all part of progress development of the union to ensure that we don’t just fuel our elite teams to go out and play, but there are a lot of players coming through from the secondary school levels and we need to provide them opportunities.”