Back to business for Manu players returning to domestic rugby

A week after the end of their Rugby World Cup, the Manu Samoa players have in large part returned to their professional clubs around the globe.

They take with them the memories and experiences of the tournament, a lot of which can be applied to their domestic rugby as well.

While the bulk of the squad flew to Auckland from Japan last Monday before going their separate ways, the Bristol Bears quartet of James and Jordan Lay, Chris Vui and Alapati Leiua headed straight to England - and got straight back into training under coach Pat Lam.

In fact Vui and Leiua both played 24 minutes of the Bears’ 43-16 win over Bath on Saturday, an impressively quick turnaround from a draining few months with the Manu.

Some of the other Manu that ply their trade in Europe have been granted a little time off, like Kieron Fonotia of Welsh club Scarlets who was due at training on Tuesday.

“For me personally, I haven’t really got as much gametime as I would’ve liked [at the Rugby World Cup] so I’m looking forward to just getting back into it, getting a bit of a fresh start,” he said.

The midfielder found the World Cup as a whole to be very disappointing, summed up by Samoa’s 47-5 loss to Ireland in their final match:

“As a team I feel like we’ve underachieved, if you look at our team on paper we’ve got some pretty skilful players.

“We’ve got the players, the potential, we’ve just gotta start delivering, and gelling a little bit better as a team on the field.”

The 31-year-old from Manunu said it was a positive campaign off the field though.

“For me personally it’s just learning a lot more about the Samoan culture, just seeing what my granddad used to see when he was growing up.”

Fonotia said the time spent in Samoa both before and after the Manu’s Pacific Nations Cup campaign was special, as he was able to live the way his grandfather did.

“Gives you a bit of a different outlook on Samoa, more perspective,” he said.

For Fonotia the other silver lining was the positivity from the supporters both in Samoa and around the world:

“The fans have been unbelievable… it’s been awesome.

“All I can say is just keep the hope, keep the belief because we’ve got a good team here, and you never know what could happen.”

While the majority of the squad are returning to their clubs in the United Kingdom and France, lock Kane Le’aupepe is on a break before his Hurricanes’ 2020 Super Rugby season commences in February.

“I’m just gonna go clock off for a bit and enjoy my time with my fiancé and really relax, let the body refresh,” he said.

The 26-year-old from Tanugamanono and Faleasiu is heading to Bali for a couple weeks as part of that time off.

Le’aupepe said he learned so much during the Rugby World Cup campaign:

“Just being on the world stage, experiencing the best of the best has been massive for me.

He said the physicality and pace of the game was a bit of a wake up call, especially against Tier 1 opponents Scotland and Ireland.

“It’s definitely prepared me well going into Super, and I look forward to learning even more with Super Rugby [in my first full year, having been injury cover before signing a full contract in 2019].”

Le’aupepe said the biggest thing he’ll take away from the campaign is the unity of the group:

“We haven’t got the results we wanted obviously, but we’ve come into every game giving it our all, we’ve never ever put our head down.”

He said the scorelines don’t show but they gave their best effort, and thanked the supporters.

“Always having our backs, I know it hasn’t been easy on you guys,” he said.

“Sorry we couldn’t get you the result we wanted but we honestly truly tried our hardest

Le’aupepe said it was emotional saying goodbye to his Manu brothers, but looked forward to seeing them again soon:

“Three months together, you’re living together, eating together, fighting with each other.

“It’s just like a big family.”

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Manu Samoa Rugby World Cup 2019 squad

  • Michael Ala'alatoa: returns to Crusaders for 2020 Super Rugby in February

  • AJ Alatimu: returns to the Western Force for Global Rapid Rugby’s inaugural home and away season

  • Paul Alo-Emile: returns to Stade Francais to join 2019-20 Top 14 season already under way

  • Afaesetiti Amosa: to recover from knee injury before joining Bordeaux’s 2019-20 Top 14 season already under way

  • Pele Cowley: free agent, will resume building apprenticeship if no professional offers are forthcoming

  • Piula Fa'asalele: joins new club Perpignan’s 2019-20 Pro D2 season already under way

  • Ed Fidow: joins new club Worcester’s 2019-20 Premiership Rugby season that started on the weekend

  • Kieron Fonotia: returns to Scarlets to join 2019-20 Pro 14 season already under way

  • TJ Ioane: returns to London Irish to join 2019-20 Premiership Rugby season already under way

  • Jack Lam (c): free agent, without a club having been released by Bristol Bears in May

  • Seilala Lam: returns to Perpignan to join 2019-20 Pro D2 season already under way

  • James Lay: rejoined Bristol Bears for 2019-20 Premiership Rugby season, not selected for the weekend’s fixture against Bath

  • Jordan Lay: rejoined Bristol Bears for 2019-20 Premiership Rugby season, not selected for the weekend’s fixture against Bath

  • Kane Le'aupepe: returns to Hurricanes for 2020 Super Rugby in February

  • Rey Lee-Lo: returns to Cardiff to join 2019-20 Pro 14 season already under way

  • Alapati Leiua: rejoined Bristol Bears for 2019-20 Premiership Rugby season, came off the bench against Bath

  • Melani Matavao: rejoined Manu Samoa 7s squad in camp in Tauranga, New Zealand ahead of Oceania Sevens in November

  • Motu Matu'u: returns to London Irish to join 2019-20 Premiership Rugby season already under way

  • Alamanda Motuga: rejoined Manu Samoa 7s squad in camp in Tauranga, New Zealand ahead of Oceania Sevens in November

  • Logovi'i Mulipola: returns to Newcastle to join 2019-20 RFU Championship season already under way

  • Tim Nanai-Williams: returns to Clermont Auvergne to join 2019-20 Top 14 season already under way

  • Ray Niuia: will be looking to play in his second Super Rugby campaign having spent 2019 with the Highlanders

  • Teofilo Paulo: free agent, spent 2018-19 season with London Irish in the RFU Championship

  • Tusi Pisi: joins new club Toyota Industries Shuttles 2020 Top Challenge League season

  • Dwayne Polataivao: free agent, spent 2018-19 season with Doncaster in the RFU Championship

  • Ulupano Seuteni: returns to Bordeaux to join 2019-20 Top 14 season already under way

  • Henry Taefu: returns to the Western Force for Global Rapid Rugby’s inaugural home and away season

  • Senio Toleafoa: returns to Nevers to join 2019-20 Pro D2 season already under way

  • Ah See Tuala: returns to Northampton to join 2019-20 Premiership Rugby season already under way

  • Belgium Tuatagaloa: rejoined Manu Samoa 7s squad in camp in Tauranga, New Zealand ahead of Oceania Sevens in November

  • Josh Tyrell: returns to Oyonnax to join 2019-20 Pro D2 season already under way

  • Chris Vui: rejoined Bristol Bears for 2019-20 Premiership Rugby season, came off the bench against Bath

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