Manu Samoa ready to open World Cup campaign
On the eve of Manu Samoa’s 2019 Rugby World Cup campaign, Head Coach, Vaeluaga Steve Jackson, is a man full of optimism.
Speaking to during a pre-match press conference in Japan ahead of their opening game, Vaeluaga says the World Cup is a "huge opportunity" to elevate Samoan rugby to where it once was.
The Manu Samoa play Russia at 11:15 pm Samoan time on Tuesday night.
“What better stage to put Samoan rugby back on the map than at a Rugby World Cup,” Vaeluaga said.
“We remember the past, and the people and the players that have worn the jersey and done some special things in it previously.”
He said it’s a lot harder to compete in the professional era.
But this Manu group are in control of their own destiny, and can build their own legacy:
“We want people to remember this Samoan team at this Rugby World Cup, as we have done ’91, ’95, those teams that made quarterfinals and did extremely well.”
With Fiji and Tonga causing trouble for Australia and England at times during their opening game losses, Vaeluaga thinks the Pacific island teams can have a real imprint on the tournament.
“One thing you’ll find from the Pacific Island nations is that we won’t go away, we’ll keep on battling,” he said.
That’s all a part of the fa’asamoa, which Vaeluaga said contributes heavily to the great culture in the team:
“It makes my job a lot easier, everyone’s pretty relaxed.
“But when we cross the white line and get into our training, everyone’s pretty focused for a common goal.”
Starting hooker Motu Matu’u is one of the Manu players who can’t wait to get on the field on Tuesday night and begin working towards that goal.
He said it was unbelievable to get out on the Kumagaya Rugby Stadium field for the first time during the team’s captain’s run on Monday:
“For a lot of the boys this is their first World Cup, and there’s been a lot of talk about how this is the world stage.”
Matu’u said it was special standing on that stage on Monday, and Kumagaya has yet another great playing surface.
“All the fields that we’ve been training on, it feels like the fields that we’re gonna play on,” he said.
The 32-year-old from the villages of Fasito’o-uta, Falelatai and Manono said he is looking forward to the game, and the atmosphere the crowd will bring.
Matu’u has earned a starting berth for Tuesday night, having impressed off the bench in Samoa’s last warm-up test against the Wallabies on September 7th.
He said it’s a daily challenge in training battling for a spot in the front row:
“Being in this environment, you never take your position lightly.”