Coach Jackson: Hilton was key to Manu World Cup recruitment

Manu Samoa coach Steve Jackson has praised the work of outgoing Samoa Rugby Union General Manager of High Performance Zane Hilton.

As overseer of all the Samoan national teams, a key aspect of Hilton’s role was recruitment of players for the Manu.

Jackson said Hilton has been outstanding for his work on that front.

“He’s done a great job over the last 12 months for Samoan rugby.”

“I thank him for everything he’s done for me, and I’m sure he’ll be cheering us on at the Rugby World Cup.”

Jackson said while he and his coaching group will keep looking and working towards recruiting their squad for the September tournament, someone will have to be appointed soon to work on contracts and the like.

“S.R.U. and World Rugby will get together over the coming weeks, there’ll be ongoing talks to fill the role.”

“We are getting close to the Rugby World Cup now.”

Jackson said he’ll continue to pick Hilton’s brain on matters of recruitment.

At the moment he is spending his days watching as many rugby players around the world eligible to play for Samoa as possible.

“We’re tracking players in Europe at the moment,” said Jackson.

“Contacting agents, talking about players and whether they might be interested in playing for the Manu.”

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He said the first port of call is to look at the eligibility of players given their club contracts.

For example, New Zealand Super Rugby teams are only able to carry three international players that aren’t All Blacks.

Jackson said this means Super Rugby players likely to put their hand up for the Manu are likely to be those who are coming off contract, who see the opportunity to play international rugby as a pathway to playing in Europe.

“But at the same time, we only want the guys who wanna play for the jersey, those players that want to bleed for Manu Samoa.”

He said building a team culture that people want to be part of has been a key part of the job since being appointed in September.

“We needed to have good November tour so that guys would go away and tell their mates they should be part of it.”

“I’ve been contacted by players that weren’t involved, that haven’t previously wanted to play for the Manu.”

“With the World Cup coming people wanna be part of it.”

In the lead up to July 1st when the World Cup squad will come together, Jackson will be watching Samoan-eligible players in European rugby, Super Rugby, Samoa A’s campaign, as well as the local Super 9 competition.

He said it’s part of his job to promote local players to overseas teams and get them professional contracts.

“Super 9 is in the early stages of it’s development.”

“I’m looking forward to getting over to Samoa to watch the local players.”

“You don’t know if they can play pro rugby until you give them the opportunity.”

Jackson said the key is creating depth, and getting as many quality eligible players as possible to select a squad from.

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