Playing Ireland a huge challenge but bigger opportunity for Manu
The Manu Samoa are looking at their final Rugby World Cup match as a massive opportunity to take on one of the best teams in the world – Ireland.
It will be just Samoa’s seventh match against a Tier One nation since the previous Rugby World Cup, and assistant coach Tuifaasisina Alistair Rogers said the rarity of that sort of game makes this one even more special.
“It is a massive opportunity for us and one the boys are very excited to take on that challenge,” he said.
Tuifaasisina noted that ideally the occasion wouldn’t be quite so special if Samoa could play opposition on Ireland’s level more often:
“It should be happening for us as a team that wants to grow, it has to happen.
“The only way you learn is by testing yourself against the best and that is what we would like to do as a team.
“Hopefully we get more of these opportunities against Tier One nations and that will help us to grow.”
He said it’s been a busy week in Fukuoka watching footage of Ireland and coming up with a game-plan for the match on Saturday night local time.
“Set-piece is going to be important for us,” he said.
“We're playing a very experienced side, so there's no doubt we're going to have to be on top of our game.
“They have ball-carrying forwards who run hard and their backs have lots of experience, the halves are massive.”
Outside that halves pair of Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton is second five Bundee Aki, who was born in New Zealand to Samoan parents.
Manu captain Jack Lam said there won’t be any special plan or welcome for their fellow Samoan.
“He'll get the same treatment as everyone else,” the skipper said.
“Most of the boys are pretty close to him and some of them met up with him during the week.
“We're all friends off the field but once you cross the line...”
Lam, who is without a club having been released by Bristol Bears, turned down deals to play in France so he could be at the World Cup leading the Manu.
“I said it before that it was a no-brainer for me, that those contracts in France I could have taken had their condition that I had turn down the World Cup and (the opportunity) to play for Samoa in the future as well,” he said.
“I just couldn't do that. I see myself too much in the jersey and it just didn't cross my mind.
“It was a bit of a risk coming in, especially for my family, but my missus and family are all behind my decision.”
Lam said those actions from clubs, making players choose between club and country, makes things hard for the Manu.
“We can't pick some players and other players have chosen to take that. I chose not to take that path,” he said.
“Other guys have families as well obviously and they might have seen that as a risk coming to the World Cup but hopefully that will change in the future and we won't have these kinds of problems.”
Tuifaasisina Alistair Rogers said the positive is having a committed group of players:
“It has been a challenge for us selecting a squad, as Jack has said, but the great thing about it was we actually knew that we had a group that really wanted to be here.
“They sacrificed a lot to be here and you could build a good foundation with that and we believe we have.
“As Jack said, I think it has to change for the future of the Pacific Island teams. We'll see where that goes and where that leads to.”