Tupa'i setting the standard for Manu Samoa
Missing out on the Manu Samoa's 2018 Northern Hemisphere Tour through injury was almost a blessing in disguise for lock Tupa'i Chris Vui.
“I was able to be a spectator," said the 26-year-old from Foailuga, Lano and Sa'asa'ai, who captained the side the last time they played at Apia Park.
“[I] could see a lot of faults in the squad from being a viewer, and I definitely want to fix those faults on this tour."
Tupa'i said the team have been working on those shortcomings since coming into camp for the first time this year last week in Auckland and stresses the importance of doing so early: “If we leave it too late, it’s just going to continue on."
While Manu coach Vaeluagaomatagi Steve Jackson is yet to name his captain for Saturday's game against Tonga at Apia Park and the wider Pacific Nations Cup campaign, Tupa'i is a part of the team's leadership group.
It's a role he shares with Jack Lam, Logovi'i Mulipola, Dwayne Polataivao, Alapati Leiua, Motu Matu'u, Rey Lee-Lo and Piula Fa'asalele.
“We’re the group that get the feedback from the boys - if there is anything wrong we’re able to feed it back to the coaches," he said.
“We’re the ones who set the high standards in the squad."
Leading by example is all the more important given the eight new caps in the squad, he said:
“For some of them it’s their first time in the country."
Tupa'i said fans have high expectations but are crucial to spurring the team on.
“We owe the country a great performance.
“We’d just love to see everyone out there at the game this weekend, it really helps."
Tupa'i is one of five 2018-19 Bristol Bears players in the squad, and he said having familiar faces within the Manu would boost a team coming together from different corners of the world:
“Guys are from France, guys are from New Zealand, Australia. I think the hardest thing is getting together in a short time period, trying to get a game plan."
But he said Samoan culture naturally brings everyone together:
“That’s the point of difference between any other team."
In December 2018 he signed a three year contract extension at Bristol. Tupa'i said he is relishing playing on a team coached by former Manu Samoa player Pat Lam:
"He runs a tight ship over there. He sets some really high standards and I love it there in Bristol, the brand of rugby that they’re playing."
Tupa'i's daughter was born in Bristol, and he has revealed he is looking to settle long-term: “She’s a Bristolian now."