Manu Samoa hours away from first RWC 2023 match

By Shalveen Chand 16 September 2023, 2:00PM

In the less than 24 hours, Manu Samoa will take the field in their first match in the Rugby World Cup against Chile.

Head coach Vaovasamanaia Seilala Mapusua said their wait is almost over but they are not making the mistake of underestimating the South Americans.

"This is our first game at the Rugby World Cup and it feels like we've been waiting a long time. There's been a lot of managing the energy levels and making sure we don't over-stimulate ourselves before the weekend,” he said.

"The team we've selected is strong. We want to start well and put our best foot forward, so the message to the boys has been giving Chile the respect they deserve and making sure we do our people proud."

Vaovasamanaia has called for more international tests for teams in the Pacific. He said this was the only way to raise the level of the teams.

"I've been in the role for three years now and in that time we've played nine or potentially 10 test matches,” he said.

"When we played Ireland a few weeks ago, that was the second tier-one team we played since the 2019 World Cup, [the other one was] Italy last year. So, in terms of preparing to compete I think a lot more can be done, a lot more meaningful games that will help us prepare for the pinnacle event."

Vaovasamanaia expects Chile to pose a threat. He knows too well that anything can happen at the RWC.

"They were brilliant last week [in the 42-12 defeat by Japan]. They are playing in their first World Cup and we know they are going to be really passionate and very good in the contact area,” he said.

"Their half-back, Marcelo Torrealba, I thought he was fantastic last week and was a real threat, as was their full-back. Also their forward pack, we know they're going to be a physical team, they like to throw the ball around, quite similar to us, so if we're not at our best we could get found out.

"They're a team that will continue to build as the game goes on if things are going their way so we'll have to try and contain them and nullify them and implement our own game on Saturday."

Vaovasamanaia has named Christian Leali'ifano in the starting line-up and Lima Sopoaga on the bench.

"They're very similar in their roles and I expect them to control the game and manage our team over the full 80 minutes. Having two high-quality playmakers that's unheard of for us so we feel very lucky and blessed,” he said.

"Whether it's Christian starting with Lima coming on or the other way around, I know we'll have the same quality for 80 minutes and that's an exciting thing for me."

Co-captain Michael Alaalatoa said the Manu Samoa have been anticipating the match against Chile as they are one of the last teams to play first game at Rugby World Cup 2023.

"I wouldn't say impatience but definitely a sense of anticipation. What comes with playing at a World Cup is a bit of nerves and excitement, so it's been a challenge to try to contain that, but the coaches and management team have done a really good job to set us up and preserve that energy for the game against Chile,” he said.

Manu Samoa face Chile on Sunday 17 September at 2am Apia time.

By Shalveen Chand 16 September 2023, 2:00PM
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