Interest still high in playing for Manu Samoa

Manu Samoa coach Steve Jackson has a growing list of about 70 players he is keeping tabs on in selecting his final list of 31 for the Rugby World Cup.

He said the Manu management were going through that list every week, getting footage of every game.

“Everyone has an opportunity to put their hand up through the European Cup, through Super Rugby, even players in Japan.

“We will select the best 31 players that we feel will do the job at Rugby World Cup.”

Jackson said first and foremost the players have to have good character.

“Who’s passionate about playing for this country, it’s an opportunity for us to be putting ourselves back on the map.”

He said they want players who can put fear back in the blue jersey, which has been lost a bit recently.

“Who wants to die for the jersey.”He said they added a couple more to that watchlist of 70 or so just the other day.

“It’s exciting, the amount of players we’ve got there when we actually sat back and looked through Super Rugby, and also in Europe.”

Jackson said it was about a 50-50 split between players at Super Rugby franchises and those based in Europe.

He said while answers from a lot of players probably won’t come until later, once Super Rugby and the European Cup die down, there is a strong level of interest in playing for Manu Samoa.

“We’re gonna win some and lose some battles with some of the players.

“It’s gonna be a timing thing, and it’s gonna be a waiting game.”

He said it tended to be easier to convince the players in Europe that Manu Samoa was right for them than those in Super Rugby.

“We have a lot of players still striving to become an All Black.”

Jackson said that trend was starting to change somewhat now, and it is his job to open the door for players to chase their dream and play for their country, by showing how passionate he is.

Crusaders loose forward Jordan Taufua announced this week he would be taking up a contract with Leceister Tigers at the end of the year.

He still wants to play for the All Blacks at the Rugby World Cup, but is yet to be capped internationally at the senior level, and could choose to represent Samoa.

Taufua played for Samoa U20s in 2011 and was part of the All Blacks squad for the June tests last year, but didn’t take the field.

Jackson said he could potentially be involved for the Manu Samoa’s World Cup campaign.

“We’d love to have him, there’s no doubt about that.

“He’s just made a huge decision around himself and his family.

“For those sorts of players you’ve just gotta give them breathing space.”

He said there are a few other players in the same situation, and the discussions they’ll be having will be about what is best for them.

“To make sure these guys are comfortable coming into an environment that they’re probably not used to, and that they probably haven’t been chasing all their life.

“I’d be selfish to say I want this guy and this guy and this guy.”

Jackson said the sevens loophole onced used by Tim Nanai-Williams to switch his international eligibility to Samoa will likely not be used this year, even though they have looked, and are still looking for opportunities.

Players capped by another nation that hold a Samoan passport and have completed a three year stand-down period, can become eligible to play 15s for the Manu if they play five tournaments on the current World Rugby Sevens Series.

The first of those five tournaments would have to be Vancouver in less than four weeks, in order for a player to join the World Cup campaign.

Jackson said there’s not a lot that can be done, unless players get release by their clubs to play those tournaments.

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