Strong Samoa side to face New Zealand
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Samoa head coach Namulauulu Alama Ieremia has named a strong side for their first June Test against the All Blacks at Eden Park on Friday.
The selected team are heavily weighted with Northern Hemisphere players with 18 of the 23 players coming out of the United Kingdom (UK) and France, while four players hails form the Southern Hemisphere and one player out of Japan. Tim Nanai Williams is the sole player from Super Rugby.
Ieremia, in his initial squad announcement, named eight new players in the Samoa environment, however, has not ventured too far by selecting established test caps. However, there is one debutant in the starting line-up Kieron Fonotia, who is well known in this part of the world with his time with the Crusaders before heading to Wales.
The other potential debuts will come from the bench in former Auckland halfback Auvasa Falealii, and Stade Francais prop Paul Alo Emile originally from Australia.
"Obviously we want to put out an experienced team and the All Blacks is not a team you experiment with, so we are wanting to put on a performance that will make our nation and most importantly ourselves proud.
"Our performance will give us a ‘rugby barometer’ as to where are at, there is no better challenge and opportunity than playing the number one team in the World. This will give us an indication of where we are at because it is important to build momentum going in to June/July internationals,"
Notable omissions through injury have been captain David Lemi, and Cardiff Blues midfielder Reynold Lee-lo. "Obviously losing the experience that both these players bring is crucial and David’s leadership will be missed, however, Kahn Fotualii is more than capable of stepping up to lead, and to be able to replace those players with Alapati Leiua and Fonotia is a good test of the depth we can draw in to,"
Ieremia sums up the squad by saying "We are looking for a solid performance. We hope that the Samoan community will come out in force like they have for us during our time here.
"As a team, we have drawn on the fantastic support here in New Zealand since we have arrived. To see a wave of blue jerseys at the Mangere Town Centre for the Welcoming Ceremony was amazing last Saturday morning.
"From Super Rugby facilities to local Rugby Union clubs, local Samoan churches, councils and Samoan communities, the support has been overwhelming. It’s a humbling experience for the team and together with all the support from Samoa and around the world, this week has been special. It’s definitely added huge value to our preparation,"
"We are grateful to NZR in providing an opportunity for us to play this match and Manu Samoa has embraced it as it will be a special day for Pacific Rugby," he added.
Samoa: 15 Ah See Tuala, 14 Albert Nikoro, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Alapati Leiua, 11 Tim Nanai Williams, 10 Tusiata Pisi,9 Kahn Fotualii, 8 Faifili Levave, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Piula Faasalele, 5 Faatiga Lemalu ,4 Chris Vui,3 Census Johnston,2 Maatulimanu Leiataua ,1 Viliamu Afatia.
Replacements: 16 Seilala Lam, 17 Nephi Leatigaga, 18 Paul Alo-Emile, 19 Taiasina Tuifua, 20 Alafoti Faosiliva, 21 Auvasa Falealii, 22 D'Angelo Leuila, 23 Ken Pisi.
Date: Friday, June 16
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 20.00 (08:00 GMT, 21.00 Somao time)
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France
Assistant referees: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia), Jordan Way (Australia)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)