Samoan back three ready for Russia's kicking game
Manu Samoa’s back three are preparing for an aerial bombardment from Russia in their first game of the Rugby World Cup on Tuesday night.
The Russians persisted with their kicking game throughout their 30-10 loss in the opening game of the tournament, and Manu fullback Tim Nanai-Williams said they are expecting more of the same:
“I’ve just gotta be keeping my head on a swivel, and making sure I can cover a lot of ground.
“They try pounce on mistakes, as we saw in the Japan game with their first try, and they really relied on that.
“Things might change a little bit in this game, I’m not too sure.”
It’s not just Russia too; Nanai-Williams is far from the only person to notice a lot of kicking from all teams through the first round of World Cup pool games.
“It’s all about possession, and in test footy it’s all about who makes the first mistake, and I think that’s the reason why there are a lot of kicks going,” the 30-year-old from the villages of Falelatai and Manono said.
Nanai-Williams said it’s been odd having to watch everyone else while waiting for Samoa’s first game:
“It’s kinda like not started, but it has.
“We just wanna get that first game so we actually feel like we’re amongst it.”
He said it’s also strange to be playing on a Tuesday, and fellow back three member Alapati Leiua agreed.
“For me, this is the first time I’ve played on a Tuesday,” Leiua said.
The 31-year-old was initially named to start at centre, but the late withdrawal of right winger Ah See Tuala with a calf problem forced Leiua to take his place out wide.
The other tricky part about the week leading into the Russia test was a travel day in the middle of it, meaning the team had just two days of training in Kumagaya.
Leiua, who is from the villages of Malie and Patamea, said the key to dealing with that travel is working hard on recovery:
“So when we hit the training ground we’re 100%.”
Like his teammate, the Bristol Bears man is just excited to get out onto the field and have a crack.
“We’re really looking forward to it,” he said.
Tim Nanai-Williams, who plays at French club Clermont Auvergne, said his body is ready to go, and he’s been ready for Tuesday night for a while now.
“The boys have been preparing for months and it’s time for us to put on a show on the big stage,” he said.
“I know all the people of Samoa will be watching, and all around the world.
“We love your support, and we’ll do our best to make you guys proud.”
Leiua said those fans, and a lot of support from a lot of people have got him to where he is now:
“God bless you all, alofa aku.”
Kickoff between Manu Samoa and Russia