Manu Samoa skipper in Premiership Team
Manu Samoa captain, Chris Vui, has featured in a statistically-based Team of the Season for England's Premiership Rugby thanks to a stellar campaign for Bristol Bears.
The league has been on hold for nearly a month due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with a four-week suspension kicking in after 13 rounds of competition.
Vui starred for coach Pat Lam's Bristol over those fixtures, earning the number five jersey in a Team of the Season put together by Premiership Rugby and British sports analytics company Opta.
The two organisations ranked players using the Opta Index, which awards individual players points for influential positive contributions in matches, and takes away points for negative contributions like conceding penalties and turnovers.
Vui's teammate Charles Piutau also makes the squad at fullback as the overall third best player for the 2019/2020 season so far, according to the metric.
They have both contributed to a terrific campaign for former Manu number eight Pat Lam's side, with the team currently third on the table and in great position to make the semifinals for the first time since 2007 when David Lemi and Alfie To'oala Vaeluaga were with the club.
Alapati Leiua has been another key cog in midfield for Bristol, who also have Manu Samoa props James and Jordan Lay, and Samoan former All Blacks John Afoa and Steven Luatua (club captain) in the squad.
The Bears are on 38 competition points, three ahead of Ah See Tuala's Northampton Saints.
Manu hooker Elia Elia's Harlequins can still push to qualify for European competition next season from seventh, while London Irish and their Samoan trio of Motu Matu'u, TJ Ioane and Belgium Tuatagaloa sit eighth, adapting well to the Premiership after earning promotion from the second-tier Championship for this season.
Worcester Warriors have had a difficult campaign so far in 10th, with new outside back signings Ed Fidow and Melani Nanai not yet providing the X-factor the club was seeking.
They remain ahead of strugglers Leceister Tigers in 11th, with Manu prop Nephi Leatigaga and fellow samoans Manu Tuilagi and Jordan Taufua all featuring regularly.
Leceister would be right in the fight to avoid relegation had Saracens not been deducted 105 points for salary cap breaches, meaning they will for to the Championship for the 2021 season.
It was confirmed on Friday that Logovi'i Mulipola and Sinoti Sinoti's Newcastle Falcons will take their place in the top flight, due to the club being runaway leaders in the second division before the rest of the 2020 Championship season was cancelled.
While the Premiership was only postponed, it remains to be seen if, how and when the campaign can be concluded due to restrictions in place as part of the United Kingdom's response to COVID-19, in addition to the public health concerns.
At this stage the season is set to resume on the weekend of the 25th of April, with nine rounds remaining in the round robin before the semifinals and final.
That final was due to be played on June 20th per the original schedule, but this looks a less and less likely possibility as the lockdown continues.
Failure to complete the season by then could make for an even-more chaotic end to the campaign, with the majority of Premiership players' contracts, including the Lay brothers' deals at Bristol, expiring on June 30th.
The league also has obligations to broadcast rights holders, and lost revenue due to lost games has clubs facing financial ruin and asking players to take salary cuts.
Premiership Rugby Team of the Season using Opta Index
- Beno Obano (Bath)
- Franco Marais (Gloucester)
- Oli Hoskins (London Irish)
- Jonny Hill (Exeter)
- Chris Vui (Bristol)
- Jack Willis (Wasps)
- Ben Earl (Saracens)
- Sam Simmonds (Exeter)
- Dan Robson (Wasps)
- Marcus Smith (Harlequins)
- Gabriel Ibitoye (Harlequins)
- Mark Atkinson (Gloucester)
- Malakai Fekitoa (Wasps)
- Tom Marshall (Gloucester)
- Charles Piutau (Bristol)