6 August 2023, Apia Samoa. Lakapi Samoa Board Chairman Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi this afternoon read out 31 players as the Manu Samoa squad for the Rugby World Cup 2023.
Some notable names missing from the lineup include Manu Samoa veterans Tim Nanai-Williams and Jack Lam. Moana Pasifika hooker Ray Niuia and lock Michael Curry have also missed out.
Alai D’Angelo Leuila, who put in a massive game yesterday against Tonga was not named by the Lakapi Samoa Chairman when the list was called out, however, it has been confirmed to Samoa Global News that this was an honest mistake.
“The old man just missed reading out my name from the list,” said Alai D’Angelo when contacted by SGN. Leuila scored 14 of Samoa’s 34 points against the Ikale Tahi at Apia Park and his left boot bailed Samoa out of some tough situations during general play.
The squad includes four players who did not feature in Samoa’s recent Pacific Nations Cup campaign. Seilala Lam and Jordan Taufua have been in camp since June however, the pair did not feature in any of the three recent matches and may be carrying injuries.
Ben Lam and Lima Sopoaga have yet to play for Samoa and did not join the recent Pacific Nation’s Cup campaign.
Ben Lam is a former New Zealand 7’s representative. The powerful winger has played 50 super rugby matches and scored 32 tries during that feat. He has played for the Montpellier Rugby Club in France since 2022.
When asked about Ben Lam and Lima Sopoaga during the press conference, Vaovasamanaia says their selection has been based on their abilities, capabilities and respective positions.
“I have been in contact with them in the past six months and I am very confident that they can come in and add to this team,” said the Head Coach.
The Manu Samoa Head Coach added that the final selection has been no easy task with the calibre of players now available for the Manu Samoa.
Front rower Michael Alaalatoa remains as the Manu Samoa captain, with Chris Vui named as his Co-Captain. Other players who had been named captain in the past three weeks include Nuafesili Fritz Lee and Paul Alo-Emile.
Vaovasamanaia’s 2023 squad will feature the most local players since the 2007 Rugby World Cup. Melani Matavao, Theodore McFarland and Miracle Fai’ilagi have proven that local players can transition into the professional franchise environment and succeed.
McFarland, from the Moamoa Roosters rugby club has worked his way through the local Super Rugby Competition and was training with the all-local 7’s squad when he was called into the 15’s.
McFarland has worked hard to become one of the best loose forwards in the Northern Hemisphere. He is a regular starter for Saracens and will be a key piece to Samoa’s World Cup campaign.
Fai’ilagi has everyone in Samoa following his story since he left the homeland late last year to join Moana Pasifika.
The loose forward was unknown to the Super Rugby world when he initially signed straight from Samoa’s grassroots rugby. Fai’ilagi looks to carry his impressive form from the Moana Pasifika onto the international stage.
Matavao is the Manu Samoa 7’s captain and has helped revive the Samoa 7’s side in the last 18 months. His passion, seen when he came onto the field infront the home crowd at Apia Park on Saturday against Tonga, is the x-factor that local players bring to the Manu squad.
The 32-man Manu Samoa squad named in alphabetical order:
- Nigel Ah Wong
- Michael Alaalatoa
- Brian Alainuuese
- Paul Alo Emile
- Ereatara Enari
- So’otala Fa’aso’o
- Miracle Faiilagi
- Charlie Faumuina
- Ed Fidow
- Neria Foma’i
- Ben Lam
- Seilala Lam
- Jordan Lay
- Christian Lealiifano
- Fritz Lee
- D’Angelo Leuila
- Steven Luatua
- Sama Malolo
- Tumua Manu
- Melani Matavao
- Theodore McFarland
- Alamanda Motuga
- Duncan Paiaaua
- Taleni Seu
- Ulupano Seuteni
- Samuel Slade
- Lima Sopoaga
- Jordan Tafua
- Jonathan Taumateine
- Danny Toala
- Luteru Tolai
- Chris Vui