Former Highlander and Samoa international Seilala Mapusua has been appointed the new head coach of the Manu Samoa rugby side and is promising to develop a greater pool of domestic players as he seeks to turn around the team’s fortunes.

Mapusua replaces Steve Jackson, whose contract expired at the end of last year.

“My focus is to grow our local players,” Mapusua, who carved out a lengthy professional career in New Zealand, Britain and Japan and represented Samoa at the 2007 and 2011 Rugby World Cups.

“That’s where the heart of our team will come from … that will be the key to having a competitive team.

“We’ll concentrate on the local players and then take it from there.”

Once a powerhouse of second-tier nations, Samoa has struggled in recent years as they grapple with a lack of professional pathways in the Pacific.

They have also fought a seemingly never-ending battle with European clubs on releasing players for test duty, while other players have opted to represent Tier One nations like New Zealand, Australia, England and Wales.

Despite having made two Rugby World Cup quarter-finals in the 1990s, they have not advanced out of the pool phase since 2003 and were the last side to qualify for last year’s Rugby World Cup.

In Japan they managed to win just one game, beating Russia 34-9.

“Samoa Rugby Union went through a lengthy process in reviewing the … RWC campaign with the aim to make sure lessons learnt will be dealt professionally and make sure it won’t repeat,” SRU Chief Executive Vincent Fepuleai said.

Mapusua’s former fellow international team mate Brian Lima was also appointed as sevens coach to replace former New Zealand coach Gordon Tietjens, who stepped down when the Tokyo Olympics were postponed for 12 months.

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