New names bring in a new era
It’s a relatively new team full of new players. And for the next couple of weeks, Manu Samoa supporters will have some learning to do in terms of familiarising themselves with the players.
But the 23 players named by the Chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union, Tuilaepa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, to play Georgia tomorrow is only the start of the new era.
Head Coach, Namulauulu Alama Ieremia, is every bit confident in the team.
“We have a group that is very enthusiastic and very keen to play against Georgia; however, we are under no illusions of how tough it’s going to be,” he said.
“Georgia is the champions in Europe, the tier 2 nations; they progressed through their world rankings, they have professional players in Europe and France; so make no mistake, they are ahead of us in the world rankings.
“You have to look at their form as of late; they are a really formidable opposition for a very young Manu Samoa team.”
But Namulauulu believes in his men.
“I am very confident in our preparations and I am very excited for the challenge ahead of us and I believe our players are very excited as well. We are also very excited to play in front of our fans.”
Coach Namulauulu assures everyone that the selection of the squad was made after taking everything into consideration.
“We have some experienced international players that have come late into the campaign due to other rugby obligations such as Sakaria Taulafo, Viliamu Afatia, Manu Leiataua, Faifili Levave and Tusi Pisi,” he said.
“These players just arrived this week and I think it’s very important that we go with a balanced preparation; to play a test rugby game after two days of preparations is asking a lot.
“For the benefit of the team, we believe that this is the best way to bring up those new players; obviously there were players who put their hands up and they deserve this opportunity to reward their efforts going into the team.
“If you have faith in the players you already have then they should be chosen, otherwise there’s no reason picking a big squad if you were never going to put them in the heat.
“I believe the players I have selected are ready for the challenge and they deserve this opportunity; that’s another reason behind these 10 new cap players.
“Although we have a lot of new players, there are also a lot of experienced guys to help them get through.
“Georgia is on the same boat, they have had a few of their experienced players just arrive this morning; I think they have around eight players in total that have come in late.
“I would have taken the approach that all the positions are up for grabs. I think this is important because as I said; this is a new era, new culture in terms of selection and to me; it’s all about rewarding people that have done the work.
“Whether you’re experienced or not experienced, if you do the work and your form is good then you will play.
“That actually builds competition, confidence, self-belief and it builds team culture and I think that this is really important with us moving forward.
“There are a few experienced players who haven’t been selected but it’s all about staying hungry and staying together as a team.”
Manu Samoa Captain, David Lemi, is happy with the selection.
“I always tell the boys to just be themselves and be humble,” he said.
“That’s the main message I try and put through; for me personally I have been through that path when I was young; that same path has gotten me here.
“I am confident with any team I am in, I have been in this game for so long and I know that there is no point for me being there if you don’t believe in your brother next to you, especially your Samoan brothers.
“I look at them as my younger brothers, I am really excited to play next to them, we treat each other like a family, this team is different from any other team in the world; we are brothers and we will fight and work together.
“We have one purpose and that is to win for our country.
“I am confident no matter how old they are; whether they’re 17, 19, 20 new or old; we fight for one purpose and that is to put Samoa back where they should be.”