Mulipola ready to take on Russian scrum

Logovi’i Mulipola will start at loosehead prop for the Manu Samoa in their World Cup opener against Russia on Tuesday night having won a tight battle for the jersey.

The 32-year-old from the villages of Manono and Vailoa Palauli came off the bench in Samoa’s last game against the Wallabies, but has regained the number one jersey from Jordan Lay, who will come off the bench against Russia.

Mulipola said there is a lot of competition for places in the front row at the moment, and having so many good props is helping making scrums a strength for the Manu.

He said their improvement at the setpiece is also down to a change in approach – Samoa are scrimmaging to win penalties rather than just hold their own:

“We try to bring that kind of mindset, especially in a pool with Scotland and Ireland.”

Mulipola said they have to match those top-tier sides at the set pieces to be able to beat them, and that he grew tired of people saying Samoa have a bad scrum, so the team decided it was time to change that perception.

Forwards technical advisor Ben Afeaki’s presence with the team is also a big part of the turnaround according to Mulipola.

The loosehead prop said Afeaki is a good coach, with great knowledge and scrimmaging techniques to share, but it’s just as much to do with the open, collaborative environment he fosters:

“The good thing with Biggsy is we share everything, he’s  not just telling you what to do,” Mulipola said.

“He listens to you, and asks you what do I need to do to be better.”

And that approach makes sense, when Manu Samoa have front rowers from the highest levels of domestic rugby in England (Mulipola, Motu Matu’u, the Lay brothers), France (Paul Alo-Emile, Seilala Lam) and New Zealand (Michael Alaalatoa, Ray Niuia).

Mulipola said everyone can share their different experiences and points of view on the game.

The Newcastle Falcons prop said anyone would be upset to be benched, as he was against the Wallabies.

But he wasn’t overly bothered, with the team being in the best shape to beat Australia being key:

“My mindset is whenever you wear the blue jersey, that’s more important than anything.”

Mulipola said he would never complain about being benched or left out of the team, because he knows how many people want to be in his shoes as part of the squad.

Having had since mid-July together as a unit, Mulipola said the Manu team have bonded nicely and are feeling “spot on” with their World Cup about to start.

“Everyone knows their roles,” he said.

“We know each other, we know what to do, we’ve got a good game plan, we trust our system.

“Everything is in place, we just need to do it.”

He said he knows just how the Samoan fans back on the island feel:

“I was in their position as well, you’re waiting for a World Cup to watch it.

“It’s pretty special for them.”

Mulipola said the Samoan people always want to win.

“We’re gonna do our best, and I know the people will know whether we lose or win, as long as we bring everything to the field, 100% non-stop effort, they’ll understand,” he said.

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