It has been a magical journey for Miracle Fai’ilagi. A little over a year ago he was playing rugby for his village team and then he forced his way into the Moana Pasifika and now he has been named in the Manu Samoa squad for the Rugby World Cup 2023.

“The World Cup is like the top stage. When I got named I just couldn’t believe it because there was the fear of setbacks and when I heard my name I was like, I can’t believe it and I was blessed,” he said.

“It was a tough last few weeks, all the boys felt down from our previous match against the Fijians so last week was about giving it our all. Everything on the boys’ minds was to make our families proud.”

Fai’ilagi said he believed in the squad chosen for the World Cup.

Working together with some very experienced players has been a boon for the young athlete who continues to absorb the knowledge from his colleagues and team mates whom he calls his brothers.

“As the youngest in the team, everything about me is to just learn from the older boys. These are the players I look up to and I saw on TV when I was young. I am glad to get this experience to learn more about the game,” he said.

“Working towards my first World Cup, I am always grateful for every opportunity. God has been good to me. My family is happy, I know that they aren’t like other families that like to celebrate but I know low-key that they are supporting me and are very proud.

“We have been preparing well for the Rugby World Cup, a little bit of fitness but it’s just individual skills and just the connections between some of the brothers and players that build our spirit as Manu Samoa and we’re going to work on that leading up to the World Cup.”

Reflecting on how far he has come, the youngster is looking forward to what God has in store for him and the next path for him to take.

“2023 has been a blessed year for me, first time playing in Super Rugby, first time playing for Samoa and now a blessing to get the opportunity to play in the World Cup. I am truly grateful and I want to share with the boys and girls that if you want to play rugby, believe in yourselves,” he said.

“What I tell myself is that it’s ‘me against me’ every day and the learning is every day. You just have to put in the work and work hard.”

Fai’ilagi is part of the first group of the Manu Samoa players to depart for France on Tuesday August 11. The second group departs on Friday followed by the last group on Sunday.

The team gathers in France and starts preparing for their match against the Barbarians on August 18 and then play Ireland a week later.

Samoa has been pooled with England, Argentina, Japan and Chile. Manu Samoa’s first game in the Rugby World Cup is against Chile on September 17, 2 am Samoa Time.