Manuma Samoa ready for Japan XV

By Sulamanaia Manaui Faulalo 09 April 2024, 5:10PM

The Pacific Challenge 2024 kicks off at Apia Park on Wednesday and the Manuma Samoa is set to take on Japan XV in their first game with the match-up promising to be nothing short of a thriller.

Excitement is building among the team as they prepare to compete in their first game for the round-robin tournament over three match days.

Head coach of the Manuma Samoa, Mailo Potumoe Leavasa, said their mindset going into the tournament is to win the competition.

“Our goal for this tournament and the purpose for these guys is to win this tournament for Samoa and our family,” said Mailo.

“By winning, it will set our tone for the rest of the tournament. I think the home ground will be an advantage for us, and hopefully, our family will turn up and support our boys.” 

Ivan Fepuleai, who will lead Manuma Samoa as captain into their first game, said his team is ready for the first match.

“We've prepared really well. It's a big tournament, and we're hosting, so we want to make sure that we perform really well,” said Fepuleai.

The loose prop who's played rugby his whole life knows that the competition will be fierce. He remains confident that the team will rise to the challenge and give it their all.

"These competitions aren't easy to win, so we've got to make sure we turn up on the day and perform well and prepare as best as we can," added Fepuleai. 

Yoshiakia Taian, who is the captain of the Japan XV rugby team, feels proud of leading his team, which comprises new and young players. However, he also realises that there are some tough opponents ahead of them, and the upcoming matches will not be easy.

“This is my first time playing overseas, so I'm a little nervous, but I hope to perform well during this tournament,” said Taian.

"We are ready to take on the competition, even with the challenging hot conditions. Our team is well-prepared and we will give it our all. We will also ensure that we maintain high energy levels mentally throughout the competition," added Taian. 

Taian's strategy is centred on his team's mindset and game plan, regardless of the size difference between their players and the Manuma Samoa players.

The size difference did not matter last year when the two teams faced each other. The smaller but faster Japanese came up with a unique tackling style that denied Samoa gaining much advantage and Japan's set pieces were top notch. However, it was Manuma Samoa's experience that saw them through as victors.

The Pacific Challenge is a crucial tournament for these teams, as it provides a platform to showcase their skills and compete at an international level. It also offers an opportunity for young players to gain exposure and develop their talents.

The tournament promises to be exciting as these teams compete for the title of Pacific Challenge champions. 

Eddie Jones, now Japan's head coach, will attend the games and participate in the selection process for the best young players. 

Players taking part in the Pacific Challenge 2024 will have a second motivation to perform as they look to convince World Rugby observers that they have the qualities necessary to make the prestigious Pacific Combine.

The week-long programme funded by World Rugby aims to identify the best talent in Oceania and accelerate their development through immersion in a high-performance environment, testing the players against World Rugby standards, with key areas of assessment spanning technical, tactical, physical and medical aspects of the game.

A selection of 25 high-potential players from the Pacific Islands will be undertaken by World Rugby observers and high-performance staff to make the Pacific Combine class of 2024, taking place in Apia directly after the Pacific Challenge (21-27 April).

Last year’s class of 2023 featured seven members of the victorious Fiji Warriors’ squad including flanker Isoa Tuwai who now plays for the Fijian Drua in Super Rugby. Only players from Tonga, Samoa and Fiji without a professional contract can be eligible for the World Rugby Pacific Combine.

This year’s combine will be supervised by experts providing a unique opportunity to experience first-class coaching and receive advice about the level of commitment, drive, discipline, and resilience required at the professional level.

In the first match of the day, Fiji Warriors will take on Tonga XV at 12.30 pm while Japan XV and Manuma Samoa play at 4 pm. Entry is $10.

By Sulamanaia Manaui Faulalo 09 April 2024, 5:10PM
Samoa Observer

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