Manu looking to counter Russia's set-piece and kicking game
Vaeluagaomatagi Steve Jackson and his Manu Samoa coaching staff have picked the team they feel is best equipped to face Russia and their strong setpiece and kicking game.
Samoa open their Rugby World Cup against the Russians on Tuesday night, and Vaeluaga said based on their 30-10 loss to Japan, the Manu are expecting a lot of kicking from their opposition.
However he said teams can always change tactics from game to game;
"They'll have things up their sleeves that they wanna play against different opposition.”
Vaeluaga said the best way to combat Russia’s kicking game is to prevent them from doing so in the first place;
“We don’t give them the opportunity to kick, we hold onto the ball, and when we’ve got the ball we look after it.
“If we’re gonna kick and give them possession, we need to make sure that our kicking game is on song as well, and we’re bringing up our line and putting pressure on.”
He said it’s about being smart, and the back three in particular will have to work hard.
Ahsee Tuala has been given the nod at right wing over Belgium Tuatagaloa, perhaps with Russia’s tactics in mind.
"He brings something a little different, with his finishing ability and then obviously he's good in the air,” Vaeluaga said.
"Belgium, unfortunately he missed out, just because we think that Ace can do some things that not too many other people can.”
The other major changes to the starting XV from the Australia test just over two weeks ago are in the front row, with Logovi’I Mulipola and Motu Matu’u rotating in over Jordan Lay and Ray Niuia.
"It's a highly contested area in our squad, as are all other positions,” Vaeluaga said.
He said they don’t like to look back too far as a team, but the performances of Mulipola, Matu’u, and particularly Paul Alo-Emile (who remains on the bench) off the pine against the Wallabies earned them starting berths.
The other change to the starting lineup is Chris Vui’s return from illness to captain the side in place of the injured Jack Lam.
Vaeluaga wouldn’t go into detail on the nature of the injury, but said Lam was potentially able to play:
“But again as a medical staff and a coaching group we decided to give him an extra few days.
“We’re not resting him, if he was available to play he would play.”
Vaeluaga gave his full backing to Chris Vui and his ability to captain the side having done it before and done it well.
“I’ve known Chris for a long time, I know what he brings,” he said.
“He gets the best out of me as a coach as hopefully I do with him as a player.
“We just want him to lead with his actions and the way that he plays.”
Vaeluaga said Vui is part of a group of leaders in the team that are always relied upon, and Tuesday will be no different.
Despite his experience and leadership role in the team, the game against Russia will be Vui’s Rugby World Cup debut, along with 15 other players in Samoa’s 23.
“We want them to be excited and nervous, but we want them to play the way we have been,” Vaeluaga said.
Assistant coach Tuifaasisina Alistair Rogers, who was part of the All Blacks setup at the 2011 and 2015 tournaments, concurred that the players don’t need to do anything differently:
“They’ve been picked for a reason, they’ve just gotta go out there and do their role.”
“This is my first World Cup too and [Tuifaasisina]’s trying to calm me down!,” Vaeluaga laughed.
The assistant coach’s trick for doing that?
“Red wine,” Tuifaasisina joked.
The game kicks off at 11:15 pm Samoan time at Kumagaya Rugby Stadium.