Three new caps have been selected in the Manu Samoa squad to contest next month’s Pacific Nations Cup and Rugby World Cup qualifying matches.
Harlequins number eight Matt Luamanu adds further depth to the loose forwards, Western Force first five Rodney Iona will compete with the returning Tusi Pisi for the playmaker’s role, while former sevens star Ed Fidow gets his chance out wide in the fifteen-a-side game.
Veteran lock Joe Tekori is set to make his first test appearance since the 2015 World Cup, while Harlequins midfielder Alofa Alofa and Newcastle wing Sinoti Sinoti have also been named in the 28-man squad after last wearing blue three years ago.
Experienced prop Logovii Mulipola has been picked for the first time since 2016, while fellow front-rowers Viliamu Afatia, Paul Alo-Emile, Seilala Lam and Elia Elia are back after missing November’s tour to the Northern Hemisphere.
Head coach Fuimaono Titimaea Tafua said he and his fellow selectors were very happy with the squad and combinations they had come up with.
“We’re confident that we’ve picked the right players for the Pacific Nations Cup as well as for the Rugby World Cup qualifying games,” he said.
“We are aware that the task ahead is not easy for us but we will give it our 100% come game day.”
Fuimaono said the three new caps have all been playing rugby to a high level in Europe and he has picked the strongest team available.
“These are the players that want to play for the country, they put up their hands. That’s why they want to come back to the squad and they are still on form,” he said.
“They’ve been in the World Cup before and some are new. If you look at our squad it’s a mix of old players (coming back) and new players being blooded in.
“But those are the players that put up their hands and their availability for us this time of year, especially this campaign for the (World Cup) qualifying round.”
Fuimaono said there were a few players unavailable for selection, including former captain David Lemi, midfielder Kieron Fonotia and halfback Kahn Fotuali’i, who remain a part of his long-term thinking.
“We selected players that made themselves available but those who are not in the squad who were in the end of last year’s tour they are not available due to their reasons of family commitments but I know for sure they will make themselves available towards the end of the year.”
Utility back Tim Nanai-Williams, who started in the ten jersey for Samoa in November, suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the Chiefs opening Super Rugby match of the season in Feburary.
Samoa will face Fiji and Tonga in Suva before home and away tests against Germany or Portugal for a place at next year’s World Cup in Japan.
Forwards – Logovii Mulipola, Jordan Lay, Viliamu Afatia, Paul Alo-Emile, James Lay, Motu Matu’u, Seilala Lam, Elia Elia, Brandon Nansen, Josh Tyrell, Chris Vui, Joe Tekori, Jack Lam, TJ Ioane, Piula Faasalele, Mat Luamanu, Ofisa Treviranus.
Backs – Dwayne Polataivao, Melani Matavao, Tusi Pisi, Rodney Iona, Rey Lee-Lo, Alofa Alofa, Alapati Leiua, Paul Perez, Sinoti Sinoti, Ed Fidow, Ah See Tuala.