The ultimate focus should be to qualify for the World Cup

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 30 June 2017, 12:00AM

The equation is quite straight forward today. Manu Samoa must win. Failure is not an option.

While they will still get another chance to qualify for the Rugby World Cup against Fiji, they must surely target Tonga as the more realistic option given their form of late.

Besides, away from everything else, it will be nice for coach Namulauulu Alama Ieremia and the Manu Samoa to win. It has been a long pause between drinks when it comes to winning rugby, we are well overdue for some success.

The outcome of the test match against Wales last week was disappointing. We don’t want to delve into that anymore. Suffice to say, a game they should have won and done so quite comfortably, they allowed the victory to slip from their grasps in the last few minutes. Silly mistakes, brainless rugby and just the lack of the finishing touches all contributed to a result that will obviously continue to haunt the team for some time to come.

But that’s now history.

Today is a new day and playing Tonga in front of their fans at Teufaiva Stadium poses a significant challenge for Samoa. 

If Samoa is to win, they will need to step up ten notches better from last week’s lackluster effort to overcome Ikale Tahi.

The history of the rivalry between Samoa and Tonga is well known. Both teams love to hate each other with a passion and this in the past has translated into some brutal encounters befitting of the kind of play the teams are known for.

This afternoon’s test match will be no exception. There will no quarter given and certainly none received by either side. What we should expect is a confrontational battle of muscle and more muscle from two teams who love to run at each other.

That said, Samoa will need to play smart. They will need to be clinical and execute better than they ever have all season. There is no doubt that they can play. We’ve seen glimpses of their brilliance during their first two losses. The problem is that there have only been rare glimpses of that.

After three weeks together as a unit, we should start to see an improvement in terms of their play today. The challenge obviously is continuity and momentum especially in the front row. 

Against a very good Tongan scrum, Samoa’s starting five is very short of experience and that might be a factor. It means it will need to come down to execution and doing it with finesse. With some of the more seasoned props unavailable, the selection gives new players the opportunity to impress and show what they are made of.

The big picture is the Rugby World Cup. First we need to win today to qualify. And then the coaching staff must look at the longevity of some of the players we have. Truth be told, a number of the players in the current squad will not make the next World Cup. 

This might be the last swansong for a good number of them. Which is why it’s important for Namualuulu Alama to build depth and blood in some of the new exciting talents we have to see how they fair.

Discipline will be another key aspect. Poor discipline loses games and we’ve seen this happen. Manu Samoa cannot afford another loss like last week. 

Looking at Fiji’s form at the moment, it would be a better target for Samoa to secure the World Cup berth against Tonga today. 

Fiji is looking very impressive and they are a class above the rest of the Pacific teams at the moment. 

But secure a win against Tonga today and a spot in the World Cup; Manu Samoa will then have less pressure on their shoulders against Fiji. This will give them a great shot at overcoming the Fijians next week.

The Pacific Nations challenge is an exciting one for Samoa. While we know the results have been disappointing so far, there is nothing stopping the Manu Samoa from turning it around today against Tonga. They need to and they must. There is a Rugby World Cup spot up for grabs and that must ultimately be the main focus. O outou mama na!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 30 June 2017, 12:00AM

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