Northern Tour a step towards World Cup for Manu Samoa
Samoa Rugby Union (S.R.U.) General Manager of High Performance Zane Hilton was brought in nine months ago to get Manu Samoa to the Rugby World Cup in Japan next year.
Having secured World Cup qualification over Germany in July, the Manu just completed their Northern Hemisphere Tour over the weekend in Spain.
They had two losses against USA and Georgia, before closing the tour with a win.
Hilton said the number one proviso for coach Steve Jackson and his staff was to go and look to win games.
“For the country and also for the playing group.
“But the reality was they needed also to gel as a coaching group, and as a playing group.”
He said the good thing is over the last three games there were a lot of questions asked of the team.
“They get an opportunity to look at who stood up and played well, and moreso who didn’t, and probably won’t be in the squad moving forward.”
He said the secondary focus of the tour was building towards the World Cup next year.
“From identifying the right players, to then building a culture.”
Next year the Manu will play two games at home as part of the Pacific Nations Cup, and their buildup to the World Cup.
“They’ll use that opportunity to get to know the country, fall in love with the place again before they head away, get a really good understanding of what it is they’re representing,” Hilton said.
“The nature of the team at the moment, a lot of the players are based, even born and have lived overseas.
“Everyone has family here, but we really wanna build that connection with Samoa, and make sure we are representing the country’s best interests going to the Rugby World Cup.”
Of the Northern Hemisphere Tour squad, only flanker Iakopo Mapu and halfback Melani Matavao are based locally.
“The reality is the local guys have to step up through the competitions they are in here,” said Hilton.
“The best opportunity for those guys is to go through the 7s or Samoa A programmes, then look to continue to better themselves.
“Without a professional competition here on the island, the better players are looking to move offshore to continue their development.”