Manu Samoa coach Seilala Mapusua will spend Christmas Day in quarantine but remains hopeful Santa Claus will still be able to deliver his rugby wish list.

The former Highlanders and London Irish midfielder, who played 26 tests in the blue jersey, was appointed to the top job in August and has spent the past four weeks assessing the local talent on island.

The Manu did not take the field this year because of Covid-19 but Mapusua said the lack of international rugby had allowed him to dedicate more time to the grass roots.

“It’s been massive for me just coming here and getting to know the local scene. We’re trying to put something in place for the local competition here and maintaining connections with our boys overseas,” he said.

“We haven’t been able to play any games but it hasn’t all been too bad because it’s allowed us to really reset with the people here, work with the Union in terms of what direction we want to take the Manu Samoa and that’s been really good without the added pressure of playing test matches.”

Mapusua only hung up his playing boots in 2016 and admitted he was still adjusting to his new role.

“It’s been good just getting my feet under the desk and getting to work and getting to know the organisation and looking towards some games,” he explained over the phone from a drizzly Apia.

“Obviously Covid is dictating how everything goes at the moment – we’re just trying to plan and work as best as I can.”

He’s also been getting plenty of advice from local supporters on the street.

“We’ve been pretty lucky so far – we haven’t played a game yet (because of Covid-19) so I’ve had no stones thrown at me yet, which is a bonus,” he said.

“But the people have been really welcoming and I sense a genuine kind of excitement.”

Recent seasons have been a hard slog for Samoa, with the Manu slipping to 15th in the world rankings, and winning just seven of 28 test matches over the past four years.

The new man in charge said his wishlist for the new year was simple.

“Just to have our best players available to play 100 percent of the time and also to get a fair piece of the pie and we just want to qualify for the Rugby World Cup. I’ll just be happy for us to really showcase our potential.”

SOURCE – RADIO NZ

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