Schwalger: overseas opportunities best pathway to Manu Samoa

Former Manu Samoa captain and hooker Mahonri Schwalger is working to develop the best young rugby talents in the country and get them opportunities overseas, as executive director of Rugby Academy Samoa.

He said that’s the best way for players to get to the Manu, given the limited professional opportunities in Samoa.

Samoa A and Under-20s player Iosefatu Mareko is an alumnus of the academy who will leave for Japan tomorrow on a four-year university scholarship.

Schwalger said his job is to identify and nurture talent on the island.

“[The academy is] focussed on developing the game, if the kids are good enough we give them the opportunities.

“We prepare them for months, even years so they can go overseas.”

Rugby Academy Samoa is a part of the Pacific Sports Academy, run by sports management company CSM.

They also have academies in Fiji and Tonga, and represent the likes of Beauden Barrett, Dan Carter, Richie McCaw and Bryan Habana.

Schwalger said the Academy develops players and offers them to the Samoa Rugby Union, where they can get selected for the Under-20s, Samoa A, or the national 7s team.

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“If there’s nothing here we look somewhere else.

“If you wanna play for the Manu, you’ve gotta get out of the country, you have to play professional rugby.”

He said the main goal of the kids coming into the Academy is to play for the Manu.

“So what we do is put them into professional environments which have the resources to develop them.”

He said Mareko going to Japan will hopefully showcase the local talent here, and help open up the market for university scholarships.

“So kids that have finished school have somewhere to go.”

He said Japan are looking for kids still at college as well as university level.

“They sort of invest in these kids for three, four, five years, then they can play for their country.”

Schwalger said the Academy used to field their own teams to play in local competition.

“I find now it’s better to send our players to their own clubs and schools, so it’s better for those teams.

“To pass on and share their knowledge to help the other kids out.

“We coach them, give them the mindset and skill set, then send them back to help their clubs.”

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