It’s time Manu Samoa. O outou mama na!
It’s not going to be easy. There’s no denying that fact for the Manu Samoa at the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
But we can all hope and pray that after a few tough years for Samoan rugby, that this is our year, where things would take a turn for the better.
Our hope is that the team proudly flying our nation’s flag at rugby’s global showpiece can rekindle the form, which catapulted Samoa into the international stage in the early 1990s.
It’s possible. And we are probably in the best pool to do that, following a few World Cups where we had been placed in the pools of death.
Looking back, most commentators and analysts will argue that the early 1990s were perhaps the best years for Samoan rugby. To a certain degree, especially when it comes to the World Cup, that is true. It was during those glory days of the Manu where we made the Rugby World Cup quarterfinals.
They were days to behold and cherish. Everyone will have stories to tell. From the players to the fans, it was epic. How can we forget the emotions and the passion from Manu Samoa fans who gathered at the Apia Park during those early mornings to watch the live screening of the game being played on the other side of the world?
The victories over Wales were something else. Many newborns were given Manu Samoa and World Cup-connected names, one of them is now starring for England in Manu Samoa Tuilagi.
We also have so many Samoans who are named Cardiff because of that famous victory over Wales. There is a young man who was named after the final score. Such was the passion, love and connection our people had with their team.
It’s fitting that at this year’s tournament, World Rugby is honouring a man who played a critical role in that team. The decision to posthumously induct former Manu Samoa captain, the late Papali’itele Peter Fatialofa, into the World Rugby Hall of Fame is definitely worth celebrating.
The late Papali’itele was a true trailblazer, who played a massive part in paving the way forward for the current crop of Manu Samoa players. To be acknowledged among the likes of Sir Richie McCaw and Sir Graham Henry is not just a huge honour for Papali’itele and his family, it is also a proud moment for Samoan rugby.
Fast forward to today, of course the game has changed dramatically since those years. The arrival of the professional era – where money and resources is key – has disadvantaged smaller countries like Samoa a great deal.
Indeed, the challenges and odds are enormous, especially when it comes to finances. There are also unfavorable laws put in place by rugby’s governing body, which has continued to hinder the progress of Samoa and other Tier 2 nations.
These have been well detailed on the pages of this newspaper and in many media stories. We are not going to delve into them today.
What we do want to say is that perhaps as fans, we often forget these challenges when it comes to results. Because we have naturally gifted athletes and players, we expect them to win and beat any team, without thinking about the countless obstacles that are in their way. Take money for instance.
When Samoa lines up against Ireland, the difference in the budgets of the two teams to prepare for the World Cup is like heaven and earth. In terms of all the teams in Pool A, Samoa will probably have the smallest budget. Even Russia would have thrown more money to prepare their team for the World Cup than us.
But that is the reality we have to live with. It is why we also have to be realistic with our expectations. The difference between the early 1990s and today is how technical the game has become, which is where money comes into play. Gone are the days where rugby was all about physicality and athleticism. The game is much, much more than that today. If anything, it has become more mental as opposed to brute strength and pure physical abilities.
Which means that if this Manu Samoa is going to do well, they need to play smart and be clinical. They need to get their set pieces right and play to their strengths – that includes their natural flair.
The test match against Australia was a good pre-World Cup hit up.
From what we have seen in Japan so far, anything could happen. Japan found the going tough against Russia in the opening game. And that would give Russia a lot of confidence heading into Tuesday’s game.
We’d like to think that Samoa would get the job done against Russia, but it's not going to be easy. The message from coach Vaeluaga Steve Jackson so far is that they will play every game like a final. That is a great attitude to have.
Given the challenges and the sacrifices some of the players have had to make to represent Samoa at this year's World Cup, they deserve to do well. And the signs are good so far, there are good vibes coming from the team. They have had a wonderful two weeks in Iwaki and Yamagata which should put them in good stead for Tuesday’s opener.
As for the support base in Samoa and all over the world, we might disagree on many things but not when it comes to our support for our Manu Samoa.
Today, we want to join Chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, C.E.O. Faleomavaega Vincent Fepulea’i and all our people in wishing Coach Vaeluaga, Manager Va’aelua Aloi Alesana, Captain Jack Lam and Manu Samoa God’s blessings for the tournament.
Tuesday night cannot come soon enough. It is time Manu Samoa, o outou mama na!
Have a restful Sunday Samoa, God bless!