Samoa’s Rugby World Cup campaign ended in Lille last Saturday following a heart-breaking 18-17 defeat to England as they failed to live up to pre-tournament expectations.
Rubbing salt into the wounds is that the Pacific Islanders are unsure when their next match will be, unlike England who have the Six Nations starting in February and a reported July tour to New Zealand.
Seilala Mapusua’s Samoa lost by just four points to world number one side Ireland weeks before the start of the World Cup.
Their hopes had been boosted by the inclusion of numerous former New Zealand and Australia players in their squad and a host of individuals from the Moana Pasifika Super Rugby franchise.
Defeat to England, Japan and Argentina, however, meant they finished fourth in Pool D, claiming just one win, over debutants Chile.
“Our goal was to try and get into the quarter-finals, I guess in that aspect we failed in that,” prop Paul Alo-Emile told AFP.
“We felt we had the team, everything that was required to make the quarter-finals but we didn’t,” he added.
Mapusua had the choice of ex-All Black Lima Sopoaga and former Wallaby Christian Leali’ifano at fly-half as they benefited from a World Rugby rule change allowing players to represent a second nation.
Former New Zealand forwards Steven Luatua and Charlie Faumuina were also part of Mapusua’s set-up.
“Having the ex-All Blacks and Christian come play for us really did help with their experience,” Alo-Emile said.
“They have that rugby knowledge, it was really needed,” the 31-year-old added.
A third of Mapusua’s squad have been involved with the Moana Pasifika franchise, playing week in week out against the best sides from New Zealand and Australia.
The Moana play their games in Auckland, and are helped by New Zealand Rugby, unlike the Fijian Drua who play in the Pacific Islands – their national team have booked a quarter-final match-up against England in Marseille.
“A lot of these guys were just playing club rugby, a year, two years ago, now they’re playing really well at the World Cup,” Stade Francais’ Alo-Emile said.
“Moana Pasifika was smart to pick them up before the World Cup because at the World Cup really showcased how good they were.
“Even my agent was asking me for some players, which showcased how good these players are,” he added.
Following the defeat to England, Mapusua called for more games against leading nations, having just played four Tier One sides since the 2019 World Cup.
The 2003 tournament winners have never played a game in Samoa nor have three-time champions South Africa.
There are discussions to create a more organised Test rugby calendar but it entails a competition of two divisions, with Samoa locked out from the top-flight.
“Maybe it’s something Samoa rugby needs to be pushing for or something World Rugby, including us more into the schedule,” Alo-Emile said.
“It would be great to see more tier one nations come over,” he added.