The new Manu Samoa rugby coach says he plans to use the upcoming November tour to build depth and give a wide range of players a chance to press their case for World Cup selection.
Steve Jackson was appointed on Friday to replace Fuimaono Titimaea Tafua.
The former Blues assistant coach has spent the past few days reaching out to players, pouring over game footage and finalising his coaching team.
He has to submit a squad to World Rugby by Friday and said while they want to win games now the bigger focus is on being successful at the World Cup in a year’s time.
“This November tour (which includes tests against USA, Georgia and Spain) is a stepping stone for me to understand the players and for them to get used to me and the way that I coach,” he said.
“But also realise there will be players on this tour that will be available for the Rugby World Cup and we’re looking to build competition.
“Those that are selected to go away there might be some guys that aren’t on tour that will be at the Rugby World Cup, there will be some guys may be left behind just so that we can introduce some new blood to see where some of these players are.
“The most important thing, I think, leading into a Rugby World Cup is that we need to build some depth and some depth in key positions so that’s what this tour will be about.”
Steve Jackson said as well as current and former Manu Samoa representatives, he’s keen to canvas the interest of players, such as Blues winger Melani Nanai, who are yet to be captured at test level.
“The enticements for some of these guys will be the Rugby World Cup and then opening up doors around the world so that they can have a successful career and, obviously with their families, secure themselves for the future,” he said.
“There’s a few people around and it’s my job to first and foremost tap into those people and see if they’re willing to step up and represent their country and if we can do that we’re starting to build a competitive side.”
The former New Zealand Māori representative has never played or coached outside of New Zealand but said he’s very familiar with a number of the Samoan players.
“I’ve been privileged to work with guys like Chris Vui, who’s actually captain of the side and probably about 50 percent of those boys that have played there I’ve had something to do with, whether it be coaching or even at the end of my career for some of them, like Kahn Fotuali’i who I played with,” he said.
“Look, I’ve got a good grasp of the guys that are there, that have been there and done a job to obviously get this team to the World Cup, and I’ve worked with a few other guys who are eligible around New Zealand at the moment, who will hopefully will be able to make themselves available for Rugby World Cup.”
Steve Jackson said there has been some negative talk around the Manu in recent times and his job is to change people’s perceptions of them and put together a team that’s really competitive.
He said it is important to get the team culture and environment right first, for him to get to know the team and earn their trust.