The rugby world has been eagerly anticipating the latest international squad naming’s in preparation for the Rugby World Cup France 2023. Manu Samoa’s Head Coach Vaovasamanaia Seilala Mapusua has named a 40-man squad that will compete for the Pacific Nations Cup (PNC) in July. Moana Pasifika are proud to acknowledge their 13 representatives that have been selected in the squad. This brings the Super Rugby franchises’ tally to 21 across the Tonga and Samoa teams at the PNC competition.
A 26-cap Manu Samoa international himself, Mapusua said he is excited by the opportunity to put in the work with his team on the road to the Rugby World Cup. The upcoming test matches gives his team a great period to build a solid unit.
Bringing speed and power to a Samoan front row that is internationally renowned for their brute strength and physicality, hookers Luteru Tolai (Gagaifo Lefaga) and Ray Niuia (Saipipi, Sa’anapu) have both been named. In addition to Samiuela Moli being named for the ‘Ikale Tahi, all three Moana Pasifika hookers have deservedly achieved representative honors, after providing a selection headache for the Moana Pasifika coaching staff all season.
A locking partnership that has shared the field many a time this season, Michael Curry (Vaoala, Faatoia) and Samuel Slade (Sapunaoa, Vailoa Palauli) return to the Manu Samoa squad. The versatile second rowers have been invaluable assets for Moana Pasifika since the club’s inauguration, and both offer a wide-ranging skillset that can see them slot on to the side of the scrum as well.
Three Moana Pasifika loose forwards have been selected and provide a great blend of experience and youth to Samoa’s team. Two stalwarts of both Manu Samoa and Moana Pasifika, Jack Lam (Gataivai, Malie) and Alamanda Motuga (Sataoa, Sa’anapu) combine once more and will offer great leadership for their international team. Under their tutelage, shining Moana Pasifika Rookie of the Year Miracle Faiilagi (Vailele, Uafato) is named as one of eight debutants. Having represented Samoa on the HSBC World Sevens Sevens Circuit and the Manuma Samoa A, his emergence through Moana Pasifika is an extremely proud moment for the organisation as well as for Miracle and his family.
Similarly to Moana Pasifika’s hooking stocks, all three halfbacks have been selected for their international sides. Ereatara Enari (Vaiala, Nofoali’i) and Jonathan Taumateine (Nofoali’i, Satapuala) have been a strong one-two punch for Moana Pasifika this year, with ‘Ikale Tahi’s Manu Paea also having a brilliant season. Both Enari and Taumateine bring a wealth of Super Rugby experience and can take control of any game through their outstanding facilitation skills and running game.
Making himself available for Manu Samoa after 26-appearances for the Wallabies, Christian Lealiifano (Magiagai, Letogo) is named to make his debut for his country. “I’m so grateful and blessed to be given an opportunity to represent my family, heritage, people, and those who have gone before us,” says Lealiifano. With a storied career that has seen Lealiifano overcome so many obstacles, the Manu Samoa debutant is a welcomed, experienced addition to the side.
On the wing, Neria Foma’i (Magiagi, Lepua’I Manono-Tai) has proven performance record when he dons the blue jersey of the Manu Samoa and has had a strong season for Moana Pasifika. Another one of the Manu’s players who has come through the Rugyby Sevens pathway, Foma’i is a hard-working winger who’ll combine well with whoever is inside him.
Danny Toala (Lotofaga, Faleasi’u) and Alai D’Angelo Leuila (Gataivai, Fagali’i) are the final two Moana Pasifika players named for the Manu Samoa. Both utility backs have the ability to slot in at almost any position in the backline and will be valuable assets for Mapusua to call upon whenever needed.
Moana Pasifika also acknowledges the selection of Nigel Ah-Wong, who made his debut during the 2022 season.
Manu Samoa has an array of international talent to boast, with their squad also featuring the names of former All Blacks Charlie Faumuina, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Steven Luatua, and Lima Sopoaga. In addition, they harbour a wealth of Super Rugby experience in the forms of Michael Ala’alatoa, Sa Jordan Taufua, Taleni Sau, Stacy Ili, and Tim Nanai-Williams. Manu Samoa have named one of their most experienced teams to date and will relish the opportunity to suit up together as they prepare for a big campaign this year.
Moana Pasifika wishes the Manu Samoa and Lakapi Samoa all the best with their upcoming campaigns.
Fa’afetai tele lava.
FULL MANU SAMOA SQUAD
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