Samoa’s option to take advantage of changed eligibility laws in rugby has created pre-World Cup interest in how the side’s former internationals from other nations impact the event starting in France next month.
British rugby writer Brendan Gallagher said in The Rugby Paper that Samoa was one of the Pacific Island nations that would benefit from players ‘giving back’ to the island of their heritage. And it was for ‘love and dedication’ because the islands did not have a lot of money to attract the players.
“The new ruling has already galvanised Samoan rugby in particular, and that seems fair enough because the mighty Samoan rugby culture has been bolstering the arsenals of many other nations around the world for decades.
“Yes, some of their new recruits are a bit long in the tooth, but didn’t England’s ‘Dad’s Army’ side come up trumps 20 years ago in Australia? They are highly committed and after a long summer of first rest and then conditioning – part of the Samoan regime has been long team rowns in the huge fautasi rowing boats that are part of Samoan culture – they have emerged in pretty good nick physically and mentally.”
After their Pacific Nations Cup, in which they beat Japan and Tonga and lost to Fiji, they performed well enough for their pool opponents to eye them warily.
“Their arc is currently very much upwards. This is their best team in a long while.”
Players they can call on include prop Charlie Faumuina and Michael Alaalatoa, loose forwards Steven Luatua, Fritz Lee, Chris Vui, Jordan Taufua, five-eighths Lima Sopoaga and Christian Leale’ifano, wing Ben Lam and utility Tim Nanai-Williams.
Samoa will complete their Cup preparation in France with a game against the Barbarians in Brive and Ireland in Bayonne.
Gallagher said, “Both teams [the Barbarians and Ireland] would do well to rest anybody they consider absolutely essential to their fortunes or at the very least spell them as soon as is decent.
“The Samoans begin [the World Cup] with Chile in Bordeaux before what should be their first big test, against the Pumas in Saint Etienne. If you are a seeker of World Cup upsets I would start there.”