In 2007, Samoa fell below their usual high standards at the World Cup, but they’re back four years later with a squad capable of making the knockout stages, writes Paul Morgan.
Defeats to England and South Africa in 2007 were understandable but a 19-15 loss to Tonga left them having to qualify for this year’s event.
The Samoa side that is out in New Zealand is light years away from the team that failed in France, and with the big Samoan population in the country they’re likely to be one of the best-supported nations.
For a country with a population smaller (183,000) than Northampton, Samoa’s ability to produce world-class players is incredible. “It’s our national sport and there’s a field in every village,” explains Kubota Spears centre Seilala Mapusua, “and while they’re not all the regulation size with lines painted perfectly, like they are in the UK, it shows how much we love the game.
“There are a lot of big guys and they like a lot of contact. I’d probably be more worried playing in Samoa than I’d be in England. The hits do seem to be harder! They also love it when guys who are playing overseas play on the island.”
Once again the squad is full of players from the top leagues around the world, including Dan Leo, David Lemi, Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, Sailosi Tagicakibau and, Alesana Tuilagi from the Aviva Premiership.
They’re also buoyed by one of the best results in their history this summer – a sensational 32-23 win against Australia in Sydney – and the opening of a high-performance facility in Faleata, funded by the IRB and Samoan government.
All in all, plenty to think about for Samoa’s Pool D opponents.
This article appeared in the October 2011 issue of Rugby World Magazine.
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