Man on a mission
Manu Samoa’s new coach, Fuimaono Titimaea Tafua, knows the odds are against him but the term “mission impossible” is not part of his vocabulary.
That’s his attitude to his new role and the man who coached Samoa to one of her most famous rugby victories over Australia would need it.
“When I took on the role back in 2009, our Manu Samoa had not qualified for the Rugby World Cup in 2011,” he told the Samoa Observer yesterday.
“I had to take the team through the whole qualification process. So it’s not a new task to me.”
Fuimaono is not cocky but he is quietly confident that if they can get the basic structures and the right players for the job, the Manu Samoa can secure a berth for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
The new coach was reappointed by the Samoa Rugby Union last week in a move described as back to the future. Fuimaono is hoping to revive the ailing fortunes of the Manu Samoa who have only won one of their last six matches under previous coach, Namulaulu Alama Ieremia.
“I understand members of the public are anxious about the qualification for the World Cup but I think if we can sort out the first things first and if we are able to get the support from the public, we will give this a good shot,” he said.
Fuimaono is under no illusion about the enormity of the task ahead.
But he is grateful for the opportunity given to him by the Samoa Rugby Union.
“I feel honoured and privileged to be given this role,” he said. “I am a servant of Samoan rugby and I will do my best to make Samoa proud of their team.
“I’d like to acknowledge the Board of the Samoa Rugby Union and the country for placing their trust in myself to take over the team.”
The first part of his role is to take Manu Samoa on their tour of the Northern Hemisphere at the end of the year.
Fuimaono knows there are issues with some of the senior players who prematurely left the Manu Samoa camp the last time they were in Apia.
Asked if that would make his task difficult, Fuimaono was coy.
“My job is to pick the best team available to represent Samoa,” he said. “The key part for me is that those players are fit and that they are of the right mindset. That will be what is most important.
“Right now, we need to establish a system where these players are of the highest fitness level so that they can compete at the highest level of the international stage.”
Fuimaono draws inspiration from the example of the All Blacks.
“If you look closely to the All Blacks and their success story, it’s all because of the systems and the quality of the players they have,” he said.
“They only change one, two or three players for a tour but their combinations are still there because they have been a unit for so long.
“In total contrast, South Africa’s Springboks is a very tough team and they have a lot of new players and the result showed.”
Would it matter to him if the Manu Samoa team is picked from professional players overseas or the amateurs in Samoa?
“The Manu Samoa will be picked from the best players who are available to represent Samoa. That means overseas and Samoa. The door is opened to players and we are looking to select the very best Manu Samoa team.”
On that note, Fuimaono acknowledged the local development of the Super 9 Rugby Championship.
“The Super 9 Rugby Championship tournament is important,” he said. “It is very helpful to help identify some of the players on the island and I’ve seen a lot of raw talent which we would like to develop."
Fuimaono said the Manu Samoa would soon assemble to start preparations for the November tour. That will help them gear up for the all-important Rugby World Cup qualification at the beginning of 2018.