Rugby was an unlikely sport for Manu Samoa's new first five

Plenty of Samoan rugby players grow up in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane but, unusually, new Manu Samoa first five Ulupano 'UJ' Seuteni was raised in an Australian city where rugby is almost unknown.

The 25-year-old pivot, who is one of four debutants in the starting lineup for the opening Pacific Nations Cup game against Tonga on Saturday, was raised in Adelaide: where Australian Rules football reigns supreme. 

Seuteni who is from Tiavea, Malie, and Samusu, Aleipata started off playing Australian Rules - a kicking-heavy code of football most favoured in Australia's south and west - because that's what his friends played.

"No one knew what rugby was in Adelaide," he said. 

“I think we’ve only got six teams in the whole of South Australia."

But his rugby-mad Samoan parents eventually found him a club to play for. Seuteni found his sport.

“It’s kinda genetics, being Samoan, for me to go back to the rugby," he said.

The Samoan community in South Australia is small; Seuteni thinks there are maybe 50 in the whole state.

“We pretty much know all the Samoans in Adelaide.

“Every time we see a new Samoan we’re always excited; new friends."

This is the former Australia Under-20 representative's second ever time in Samoa, and the first in about 10 years.

He said he's excited to be here representing his family and the country.

“It’s been pretty cool to be back around with my culture, pretty surreal at the moment."

Seuteni just finished his first season at French club Bordeaux; he has played in France since 2014.

“I don’t mind the lifestyle over there, it’s very relaxed and I guess the only thing is just the language.

“I’ve been playing mostly inside centre at Bordeaux, obviously can cover multiple positions and they want me at 10 primarily for this campaign."

Fellow Manu debutant Afasetiti Amosa is Seuteni's teammate at club level as well.

“It’s pretty cool to come into the group with a familiar face."

Another three Manu Samoa players are expected to earn their first caps off the bench for Saturday's fixture against Tonga. Kickoff is at 3 pm on Saturday at Apia Park. 

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