Manu Samoa head coach Vaovasamanaia Seilala Mapusua has named his first squad for 2023, to take on Japan this weekend in Hokkaido.
Captaining the squad is Stade Francais veteran Paul Alo-Emile. The Tighthead prop has made 122 appearances for his Paris-based club and will bring his experience to lead Samoa in its first match of the Pacific Nations for 2023.
Vaovasamanaia has gone with 5 debutants in his 23 man squad.
Headlining the debutants list is local hero Miracle Fai’ilagi, alongside former Wallaby Christian Leali’ifano and former All Black Charlie Faumuina.
Through the World Rugby Pacific combine in 2022, Fai’ilagi earned himself a 2-year contract with Moana Pasifika. The loose forward from Vailele exceeded expectations with star performances for Moana Pasifika in his first season of Super Rugby, earning the Rookie of the Year award.
Fai’ilagi will look to debut off the bench for Samoa this weekend.
Christian Leali’ifano, Moana Pasifika’s first-five eight is making his Manu Samoa debut, but not his international rugby debut. Leali’ifano is a former Wallaby, notching 26 test matches for Australia. He has since served his 3 year stand down period and is now eligible to represent his motherland.
In the same boat as Leali’ifano is Charlie Faumuina who has been named on the bench for this weekend. Faumuina is a former All Black. The tighthead prop is a 50-test All Black and was a key part of New Zealand’s 2015 Rugby World Cup winning side.
Faumuina has also served the required 3-year stand-down to be eligible for Samoa.
Also debuting this week is So’otala Fa’aso’o who will start at No. 8. Faasoo, 28, had played for Samoa’s Under 20 in 2014 and now debuted for London Irish last season.
Martini Talapusi will come off the bench to cover both first-five eight and the fullback positions. Talapusi has played all his rugby in America’s Major League Rugby (MLR), but grew up in Malie where he attended Robert Louis Stevenson High School.
Talapusi is older brother of Faitala Talapusi who is a USA 7’s representative, and nephews to the late Rev Dr Faitala Talapusi, a Manu Samoa legend in his day who had later served as Team Manager.
Auckland Blues’ Jordan Lay and Moana Pasifika’s Luteru Tola’i will join the Manu skipper in the front row.
Moana Pasifika’s Michael Curry will pair with Toulon’s Brian Alainu’uese in the lock position. The former St Joseph’s College star can play both lock and flanker and comes off a solid season for Moana.
Waikato’s Taleni Seu will start at 6 while veteran Alamanda Motuga takes up the open side.
Moana Pasefika half back, Jonathan Taumateine will start ahead of Ereatana Enari in the half back position while former Hurricanes utility back Danny Toala takes up the fullback role.
Tumua Manu and Neria fomai have been names as wings while Duncan Paiaaua and Ulupano Junior Seuteni work the midfield.
Manu Samoa’s first match in the 2023 Pacific Nations Cup is set to kickoff this Saturday at 6:50pm (Samoan Time).