Samoa face lock crisis

Thu, 30 May 2013 10:25
Four locks are out of commission

Samoan coach Stephen Betham has been left scrambling to field a fully fit team against the Lions in their challenge match at Ellis Park on Saturday.

Betham, speaking to this website in an exclusive interview from the team's training base in Johannesburg, revealed that he is struggling to find enough fit second row forwards.

The situation could improve dramatically by next week - ahead of the first of their three Test matches in a four-nations tournament that also involves hosts South Africa, Italy and Scotland.

However, this week he has a major crisis on his hand - with one lock injured, a second suspended and two others still stuck in Europe.

"We are still waiting for players who are coming in," Betham told this website, adding: "We have another three players coming in today [Thursday]."

While Samoa do have enough players on tour to field a team against the Lions, they do not a full squad yet and have a major issue at lock.

"At the moment we have more props than locks," Betham quipped.

Cardiff Blues lock Teofilo Paulo has a twitched hamstring and Betham is holding out hoped that he will recover ahead of Saturday's outing at Ellis Park.

Daniel Leo was suspended after playing for Perpignan in the Top 14 semifinals in France.

Another lock, Iosefa Tekori, is involved in the French Top 14 Final this weekend - where he will play for Castres against Toulon

Bristol-based Alafoti Faosiliva has also not arrived yet.

"Four locks are out of commission at the moment and we are looking at maybe fielding a No.8 at lock to make provision for those issues."

Samoa are expected to name their team later on Thursday or early Friday, once they have clarity on the lock situation.

* It was also revealed that Paul Williams will lead Manu Samoa on their tour of South African.

Williams is replacing David Lemi, who is currently under rehabilitation.

Other late changes to the squad include Kahn Fotuali'i replaced by Junior Poluleuligaga, Auvasa Faleali'i replaced by Alatasi Tupou, George Pisi by Sinoti Sinoti and Maurie Faasavalu replaced by Piula Faasalele.

Their unavailability is due family and personal reasons.

Samoa are expected to name their team later on Thursday or early Friday, once they have clarity on the lock situation.

Samoa squad:

Forwards: Census Johnston (Toulouse), Logovi'i Mulipola (Leicester Tigers), Sakaria Taulafo (London Wasp), James Johnston (Harlequins), Ti'i Paulo (Clermont), Wayne Ole Avei (Bordeaux Beagles), Manu Leiataua (North Harbour), Kane Thompson (Canon Eagles), Iosefa Tekori (Castres), Daniel Leo (Perpignan), Teofilo Paulo (Cardiff Blues), Taiasina Tuifua (Newcastle Falcons), Alafoti Faosiliva (Bristol), Ofisa Treviranus (London Irish), Jack Lam (Hurricanes), Piula Faasalele (Castres, France), Fa'alemiga Selesele (Moata'a, Samoa).

Backs: Junior Poluleuligaga (free agent), Jeremy Su'a (Crusaders), Alatasi Tupou (Samoa), Tusi Pisi (Hurricanes/Suntory Sungoliath), Ki Anufe (Auckland), Sinoti Sinoti (Zebre, Italy), Johnny Leota (Sale Sharks), Isaia Tuifua (Vigo, Spain), Brandon Va'aulu (Tokyo), Alesana Tuilagi (NTT Shining Arcs), Alapati Leiua (Hurricanes), Robert Lilomaiava (Vaiala, Samoa), Paul Williams (Stade Francais - captain), James So'oialo (Wellington).

By Jan de Koning