Vaeluaga looks to future after Cup showing
Manu Samoa head coach Vaeluaga Steve Jackson couldn’t be prouder of his team for their efforts at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Samoa’s tournament ended on Sunday morning after a 47-5 loss to Ireland, and they went into the game knowing they had no chance of making the quarterfinals.
“We’ve been through some trying times, and they never once dropped their heads,” said Vaeluaga.
“I can’t speak highly enough of some of our players in our group.”
The coach made special mention of his skipper Jack Lam, who became unemployed after the tournament finished with no club contract to return to:
“Every day he wakes up and his body’s wrecked, and he just manages to get himself out on the field again and again and again.”
Lam said for the Manu’s performances to improve going forward there needs to be interventions from World Rugby on down.
“I hope things change right from the top, allowing other players to play,” he said.
“I hope that one day Samoa are able to compete against the top teams.”
Coach Vaeluaga agreed that fixes to the longstanding issues of player eligibility and availability that affect sides like Samoa would be nice:
“But we’ve gotta look at our own backyard, and start with some development there.
“And capture those players before they’re picked up by other nations, make sure they’re playing for Samoa and get that taste of the jersey.”
He said it’s obvious the playing talent is there, the key is capturing them when they’re younger, before they head off to play their post-prime years in Europe.
“It would’ve been good if we were a little more successful at this tournament, it would’ve turned a few more heads,” Vaeluaga said.
“We’ve gotta make sure we change a lot of minds and persuade players that this is a road to go down.”
But Vaeluaga too called on World Rugby to make changes for Samoa to be more competitive:
“Hopefully there’ll be a host of things they can sit around after this tournament and talk about and look at what does the next four years look like going into France.
“What are the test matches that ourselves and Tonga and Fiji are going to get in the next four years to make sure that we’re actually playing against the best teams in the world.”
No one would argue that Ireland are in that group, and Vaeluaga said his team were beaten by a really good side on Sunday morning:
“They were really good at set-piece time; they scrummed well and mauled extremely well.”
He said they played tactically smart as well, keeping things tight after Bundee Aki was sent off in the 29th minute.
“Ill-discipline really let us down, another 20 minutes there in that game with 14 men,” Vaeluaga said of his team’s own yellow cards to Seilala Lam and TJ Ioane.
“You can’t fault our guys’ effort, they kept on trying.
“There are some moments in that game where they can be extremely proud of themselves.”
One such moment was when the Manu spent almost three minutes defending right on their own goalline to hold the Irish out with the result effectively already decided at 33-5.
“They worked tirelessly, Vaeluaga said.
“Just unfortunately we couldn’t keep our hands on the ball enough to have a decent crack at t