Manu Samoa vs Samoa A? Let’s campaign to make it happen

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 19 October 2018, 12:00AM

Let’s make it happen. Seriously. While the calls for Samoa A to play the Manu Samoa perhaps started out as a joke, it could actually be one of the best things to happen in Samoan rugby by a long stretch. 

And not just because of the negativity surrounding the latest selection of the country’s national team, Manu Samoa.

We believe people in this rugby mad country are genuinely interested in seeing the best of the players in Samoa take on their brothers in the Manu Samoa. It’s never been done before which is all the more reason we should try it.

It would be a bit like the State of Origin concept in rugby league except it would be Samoans playing professionally overseas up against the best of the players in Samoa. 

Since the suggestion was made public, the idea has been growing legs so that all is left is for someone to make it happen. Judging from the public reaction in Samoa and overseas, rugby fans have been hanging out for such a fixture, one that could potentially become an annual pilgrimage for rugby players in this country. It makes sense for a number of reasons.

The first and most obvious one is that it would at least give all Samoan players an opportunity to prove their worth for the Manu Samoa, especially local players who are often and always ignored. 

It’s not wrong to pick a team of fully professional rugby players to represent Samoa – if they are indeed the best men to do the job. We also know and accept that the standards in rugby between this part of the world and in more professional competitions elsewhere are worlds apart. 

Which means such a fixture is critical. This is about providing a pathway for local players to rub shoulders against other top players and test their skills.

The story of the selection of the Manu Samoa preparing for the Northern Hemisphere is arguably the most talked about in rugby circles in Samoa. Not because of the players who have been chosen but the players who have been left out. If feeder teams like the Samoa A exist as the pathway to higher honours, what does coach Jackson’s Northern Hemisphere squad say about the pathway?

Now there are obviously administrative lapses as well, given everything that is happening within the realm of the Samoa Rugby Union today. 

But that should not be the focus. 

Samoa A Coach, Muliagatele Brian Lima, provides a voice of reason that must be listened to.

“The reason being is because that would be a really good chance for the people of the country as well as the top people to see and select the right person for the team,” Muliaga said. “I really think it’s a good idea and if it is decided then as a coach of the Samoa A, I am all for it and will be a good chance to showcase our players’ talents.”

Following Samoa’s recent success at the Americas Pacific Challenge competition, Muliagatele said there are at least three of four players in his team who have the potential to play for the Manu Samoa.

 “As a coach in my own opinion I believe the Manu Samoa head coach should have known of any players here (in Samoa A). He should have asked if there are any players from here that are eligible to make it to the team and in that way they can help in the development as well as their preparations for the World Cup next year.”

We couldn’t agree more. After the northern hemisphere tour, there will be no more opportunities to test players for the Manu Samoa ahead of the Rugby World Cup. Besides, the teams Manu Samoa is scheduled to play against in its upcoming tour are all second tier teams. 

So why not use it to test out some new players? While results are important, the goal for Manu Samoa now is to find and prepare the best players for the Rugby World Cup. 

Aside from the World Cup, there are other reasons why this fixture between Samoa A and the Manu Samoa is an exciting concept. In the absence of quality games at the Apia Park, it would be an excellent game to bring the nation together, not in the spirit of rivalry, but to celebrate our best players. We don’t do this enough. Such a game needs to make this its goal, it should be festive and t should be a celebration for Samoan rugby.

Lastly, here’s the thing, if the All Blacks have trials to pick their best team, then the Manu Samoa definitely needs to do the same. 

The era of when players were picked based on their reputation from five years ago is gone. We are living in a time where everyone deserves an equal opportunity, providing they fulfill what’s required to perform at that level. 

Rugby players plying their trade in Samoa deserve that opportunity. Anything less is not good enough, it is injustice of the worst form. What do you think?

Have a wonderful weekend Samoa, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 19 October 2018, 12:00AM
Samoa Observer

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