Manu looks to up ante in 2017
The man in charge of the Manu Samoa, Namulauulu Alama Ieremia, is set for a big year in 2017.
Top of the list of priorities for the coach of the national team is the 2019 Rugby World Cup Qualification round later this year.
“All the preparations for last year have always been about June 2017,” he said.
But that’s not all.
With the Brisbane 10s, confirmation of Wales coming to Samoa, the Pacific Nations Cup, Namulauulu definitely has a lot on his plate this year.
The first test match of the year sees Manu Samoa take on Wales at Apia Park on 24 June.
Tonga and Fiji are next 1 July and 15 July. The venues for the matches are still being confirmed as well as possible additional matches awaiting confirmation from World Rugby.
In the meantime, Namulauulu said his focus is quite clear.
“2017 is the most critical year for the Manu Samoa outside of the World Cup Year, it is the qualification year,” he said.
“The whole preparations for last year is making sure we qualify."
“So June is a very big window for Manu Samoa rugby."
“All the preparations of 2016 and blooding the players and trying to transition the squad last year was always about June 2017 when we have to qualify.”
Winning the Pacific Nations Cup is a key part of the plan.
“We’re second at the moment with Fiji out of June last year."
“Ideally, we would like to win the P.N.C and also qualify for Rugby World 2019.”
Namulauulu said the Manu is looking to build the depth of players as well as to consolidate on some of the improvements and lessons learnt from last year.
“The preparations from the previous year have led up to this very moment,” he said.
“I think we’ve blooded in quite a lot of new players in 2016 and blooding players is always about building depth."
“It’s important that you keep developing that depth going into 2017."
“I think another critical factor is keeping an accurate gauge on the overseas players to see how their form is.”
Namulauulu is also aware about keeping a good mix of old and new players. One of the issues is the Manu Samoa squad is aging and with the 2019 Rugby World Cup, the coaching staff need to find the right balance.
“There were some players who came into the campaign last year that did well and there were others that knew they let themselves down,” said Namulauulu.
“There will be some nervous players going into June this year purely because of their circumstances and that’s just the nature of the selection process that we have to be very accurate with."
“I’d like to think there’s a lot of competition now for places and we can only afford to pick the best.”
Namulauulu assured that whatever happens, no stones will be left unturned as the Manu Samoa looks to up the ante with the countdown to the Rugby World Cup continuing.