After their historic first DHL Super Rugby Pacific season, 27 Moana Pasifika players have been selected across the ‘Ikale Tahi and Manu Samoa squads to play in the upcoming Pacific Nations Cup (PNC) 2022. The competition, to be held in Fiji, includes an Australian A side and the Flying Fijians.
Moana Pasifika Chief Executive Officer Pelenato Sakalia is ecstatic with their strong representation in the international sides. “We are excited by the prospect our players have to represent their home nations and what this means for them and their families. A key objective for the establishment of Moana Pasifika was to provide a professional pathway for our players into the Pasifika international rugby teams.”
When the 38-man squad was announced in November last year, Moana Pasifika was largely inexperienced, with 25 men having never played a Super Rugby match. In addition, with multiple COVID-related disruptions and rescheduled matches resulting in storm weeks, Moana Pasifika capped a total of 47 players in 14 games, and all replacement players were Super Rugby rookies.
Head Coach Aaron Mauger is incredibly proud of his team and how they have battled through adversity to see the plethora of men go on to international honours. “No other Super Rugby team in the 26-year history of the competition has had to endure our challenges. We were tested physically and mentally and still produced some fantastic rugby, upset quality teams, and unearthed some real talent.”
“We had 15 players who had played for Samoa and Tonga at the beginning of the season, so seeing that number almost double shows the importance and impact of having Moana Pasifika playing in Super Rugby. Many of these men might have been overlooked if they weren’t getting consistent game time at an elite level. I’m just thrilled for the men and the experience they will gain.”
14 men capped by Moana Pasifika have been named in the latest Manu Samoa team. Of that, there are nine incumbents and 5 non-capped players. New additions to the Samoan side include Ereatara Enari, Danny Toala, Lolagi Visinia, Nigel Ah Wong and Michael Curry.
Moana Pasifika’s Players Player, Rookie of the Year and Forward of the year, Alamanda Motuga features in the Manu Samoa squad. Joining him from the Moana Pasifika forward pack is blockbusting number eight Henry Time-Stowers, lock/loosie Samuel Slade, hooker Ray Niuia and 40-test veteran Jack Lam.
In the backs, Neria Foma’i, Jonathan Taumateine, Henry Taefu and D’Angelo Leuila all earn another call up in the blue jersey.
The ‘Ikale Tahi has 13 Moana Pasifika players in their latest squad announcement, with eight of those men new to side. Tangaloa Defender of the Year Solomone Funaki, hooker Samiuela Moli, flanker Sione Tu’ipulotu and illusive centres Fine Inisi and Solomone Kata all receive another chance to add to their ‘Ikale Tahi test cap tally.
Test match newcomers Joe ‘Apikotoa and Taukiha’amea Koloamatangi will bolster the ‘Ikale Tahi front row stocks. Manawatu lock Veikoso Poloniati has also earnt his first call up, along with number eight Lotu Inisi, who joins his brother Fine.
In just their first year of Super Rugby, Manu Paea, Anzelo Tuitavuki and William Havili have all put their hands up for first-time selection in the Tongan national side.
A welcome inclusion into the red jersey is Tima Fainga’anuku. Fainga’anuku and Lolagi Visinia have previously been capped by New Zealand through the Sevens program, but after a change of eligibility rules by World Rugby, they are now both available for Tonga and Samoa respectively.
The Pacific Nations Cup kicks off on July 2nd after a 3-year absence on the international test match calendar. The Manu Samoa will first play Australian A and the Flying Fijians will play the ‘Ikale Tahi from ANZ Stadium in Suva.
Moana Pasifika players in the Manu Samoa
Nigel Ah Wong*
Moana Pasifika players in the ‘Ikale Tahi
* denotes uncapped playersSee all news