Manu Samoa Rugby: How did we get to where we are today? Part I

 “When will Samoa Rugby not have a troubled R.W.C. campaign as all campaigns post 2003 

have been littered with internal controversy with some involved since 2007 stating that 2015 was the worst they had experienced? This is truly a sad indictment of the state of Samoa Rugby.”

Dear Editor,

In response to the publication of the Samoa Rugby Review by the Samoa Observer, and a well written piece that was on Facebook, has inspired a putting of pen to paper to expose what appears to be really going on. 

The writer of the Facebook article appears very correct in all he has written and it warrants further expansion.

As we know, Manu Samoa Rugby is being viewed as at an all-time low. 

Those within the know would know that this is not the case, however events have transpired that have led to the writing of this letter/article, call it what you will as to why we are even at this point now and the farcical process led by people that should have no business or further involvement in Samoa Rugby.

Let’s bring to the fore the following:

1. The true failure of the 2015 Rugby World Cup that has seemingly been swept under the carpet, highlighting those responsible for that failure and the impact that has had on where Manu Samoa Rugby is now;

2. Those responsible for any report being put forward in 2015, and the relationships exposed as a result and how this current Board are capable of leaking sensitive confidential information; and why is there any involvement from those involved in previous failed campaigns?

Why is Manu Samoa even in the position of having to qualify for the 2019 Rugby World Cup?  

You only need to look at the failure of 2015 and those at the helm. In a pool with South Africa, Scotland, Japan and the United States, this World Cup was set up for a potential quarter final finish not seen since 1991 or at the very minimum, a third pool placing for an automatic 2019 qualification.

Namulauulu Alama Ieremia was forced to resign due to the losses in 2017. In just a 12 month period from his first coaching assignment in June 2016 against Georgia to July 2017, his final test as coach with a loss against Fiji, was he fairly given a chance, or was he given a raw deal in a period that has to be seen as a rebuilding phase? 

Had the business been done in 2015 with automatic qualification, there would not have been this two year Rugby World Cup qualification and the team mind-set would have been about building and getting things right with a view to 2019, however not only do the team have to rebuild, they also had to focus on trying to qualify. 

Hence the need to pick experience, yet that experience did let the current coaching and management team down.

What is even more intriguing is the involvement of Namulauulu Sami Leota in this process and how he can have led a failed campaign with much fault laid by members of the 2015 squad towards himself, his assistant manager Aloi Alesana with Head Coach Stephen Betham at the helm. 

Bizarrely Leota has been selected to lead the way in the 2017 review process and with his other ‘allies’ like Titimaea Tafua have convinced the Board to view the current state of Manu Samoa Rugby as all doom and gloom. Leota is also part of the panel appointment for coaches to be shortlisted. This already raises questions.

In all reality, Alama Ieremia was taking on a hospital pass and tasked with qualifying for R.W.C. 2019 and in the process, needing to find new players. Anyone would know the by-product in any rebuild, is the possibility of loss until you have rebuilt which in most organisations is a 2 to 4 year cycle.  

Losing winnable test matches against Georgia, Wales and Tonga, the greatest margin by a mere 4 points, is hardly a reason for panic but sadly Ieremia will never know what he could have built, yet Samoa will still qualify in 2018 and in a much better Pool, provided they get the selection of the coach right. There was much to be built on and going the long way with a young team could have only been viewed as better outcome two years out and build a foundation. 

Will players or new coaches look to want to come to Samoa given the carrying on of this board and its insatiable appetite to leak almost all information to the media world?

The other turn of events is to learn that Board member Titimaea Tafua has applied to head Coach Manu Samoa again. 

One would assume he is going to relinquish his Board position, and in what modern age other than in Samoa are Board members allowed to apply for operational roles?  

So as a result of the review process and the Board meeting determining the outcome of the review; was Tafua already plotting his next move, to become the new coach in what is likely to be an easier pathway and pool to R.W.C.? 

Stephen Betham we understand has withdrawn his application to throw his support in with Titimaea or Brian Lima (another applicant who has been extremely vocal against the current team on TV in Samoa) as an assistant. 

The latter two mentioned are well known for “giving players hidings.”

It is easy to throw pot shots and be critical, the question is what will Lima bring differently or better to the table? Will he be inspiring players to play for him? As much his rugby prowess is well known, it is what he has done since that could count against him or his lack of experience; his tenure as Manu Samoa defence coach was very short lived. 

There was a well known incident involving him at the 2003 R.W.C. involving a player who was late to a team meeting. 

It would definitely be the wrong message however stranger things have happened at the H.Q. of Samoa Rugby.  

Also one must decipher which corner Leota is in, he is probably is in fact in all of them in some way. He will have his planned wish list all mapped out and whatever the outcome is around a new coach, if he has his way, he will formulate some role for himself as he will be yearning for the travel and lifestyle he has been missing.

You only need to ask the 2011 players, Tafua much like Betham after him, did very little coaching and were just figure heads surrounded with T.A’s to keep things together and provide the rugby content.  

Betham should remain with the 7’s which is where he is probably most comfortable.  A story shared about one coach is that only minutes before kick off in a test match, he and his manager at the time were in another room having a feed of K.F.C.! 

Tafua when in charge of the Samoa U20’s also well known for dishing out discipline with his hands, and you only have to frequent a few places around Samoa to know that he loves a drink. 

Then you have John Schuster’s application to deal with and the first question put to him should be why was there no report written in 2015? 

When will Samoa Rugby not have a troubled R.W.C. campaign as all campaigns post 2003 have been littered with internal controversy with some involved since 2007 stating that 2015 was the worst they had experienced? This is truly a sad indictment of the state of Samoa Rugby.

Samoans when it comes to our National game only want an appetite for winning and are impatient when it comes to trying to build something good. 

Unfortunately for Ieremia, 12 months was not quick enough to build a winning team. Samoans are also very naïve in thinking that former locally based coaches/management are the way forward. 

Samoa Rugby and Ieremia have been let down by Board members and it is now time to expose the forces behind this, and whether you believe it or not, any reader will be able to draw their own conclusion and then ask the question of how can this ever be allowed to happen to Samoa Rugby? Now tune in for part II.


Warren Gibbes

Manu Samoa follower 


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