Manumā the “missing link” to get locals to Manu Samoa

Manumā Samoa is hoped to be the “missing link” for local rugby players to make the step-up to international level.

Run by the Samoa Rugby Union (S.R.U.), the team will compete in the inaugural home-and-away season of Global Rapid Rugby in 2020 along with five other franchises across Oceania and Asia.

The Manumā will play their home games at Apia Park, and feature a squad of Samoa’s best on-island talent.

“Hopefully this is another step up for our players to compete,” Samoa Rugby Union Chief Executive Officer, Faleomavaega Vincent Fepulea’i said.

“It’s a great opportunity for our local players who are playing in the Super 9.

“This is a great step forward in closing that gap [between domestic rugby and the Manu Samoa].”

He said the Union are really excited about that pathway, and how it will help players become professional sportsmen off the field as well.

Those selected to the final Manumā squad will receive full-time six month contracts.

Between those payments and the logistical requirements, running the team will be an expensive endeavour. 

Faleomavaega said it will be a jointly funded by S.R.U. and Global Rapid Rugby:

“It’s an additional ask on the Union but it’s something we have to do, it’s an opportunity we can’t afford to let go.”

They are also seeking commercial help from a major sponsor from overseas, the kind S.R.U. have been unable to attract in recent years.

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“This kind of competition will bring those in,” Faleomavaega said.

He said the exposure of a 32 game competition across Oceania and a growing rugby market in Asia is valuable.

“That’s what they want, that’s what the expectation is internationally.”

Another thing that could draw in sponsorships is star signings.

“SRU is obligated under the agreement to provide a couple of marquee players, so we’re looking at that at the moment,” Faleomavaega said, noting those will be players who play or have the intention of playing for Samoa internationally.

Muliagatele Brian Lima is the team’s head coach, with the remainder of the management staff to be determined in due course.

In 2019 it was Kagifa Samoa that represented the country in Global Rapid Rugby, with the side basing itself in Auckland due to the closure of Apia Park and S.R.U. focussing on the Rugby World Cup. 

But Faleomavaega said the competitions intention was always to provide a professional outlet for Samoa’s best local players to play in Samoa.

He said it’s the next best thing to having a Pacific Islands Super Rugby team, and is something everyone has been crying out for:

“It’s a good pathway for the local players to step up to the next level.”

The Manu Samoa 2019 Rugby World Cup squad included just three homegrown (based in Samoa until age 15 or 16) players, an all-time low in tournament history.

Faleomavaega said hopefully having the Manumā pays off both in the short term and at the Rugby World Cup in 2023.

He also said S.R.U. wanted the word ‘Manu’ in the team’s name to match the Manu Samoa and Manusina:

“As soon as you say the word Manu it identifies with Samoa, Samoan rugby.”

The Global Rapid Rugby season (February-June) means the start of 2020 Super 9 has been pushed back to June, while the regional club seasons will run alongside the new tournament.

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