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8 Moana Pasifika players named in star-studded Samoa side for Italy

By Finn Morton
Nigel Ah-Wong of Samoa breaks with the ball during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between England and Samoa at Stade Pierre Mauroy on October 07, 2023 in Lille, France. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Eight Moana Pasifika players have been named in Manu Samoa’s matchday squad ahead of their blockbuster clash with Italy in Apia. This is Samoa’s first match under new coach Mase Mahonri, and it’ll be a tough Test against quality opposition.

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Samoa haven’t played an international Test since last year’s valiant run at the Rugby World Cup in France. After starting their campaign with a relentlessly dominant win over Chile, they went down to Argentina, Japan and England to round out pool play.

But those three defeats were by no means one-sided, with Samoa only losing by nine to Los Pumas, by six to the Brave Blossoms, and the difference was just a single point against eventual bronze medallists England.

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With this being the start of a new international campaign and a fresh start of sorts under coach Mahonri, this is “a fantastic opportunity” for Manu Samoa to challenge themselves against the Azzurri before facing Spain on July 13.

“I’m excited about the task ahead and assembling our first squad to play our initial two Tests at home,” Lakapi Sama Chief Executive Officer, Faleomavaega Vincent Fepuleai, said in a statement last month.

“These matches will provide valuable insights into our future strategies. Hosting Italy, one of the top Tier One nations in the world, is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate and bring rugby back to our people.”

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Wales-based prop Aki Seiuli joins Moana Pasifika hooker Sama Malolo and Colomiers Rugby enforcer Marco Fepuleai in the front row. The two locks are lock Benjamin Petaia Nee-Nee, who plays club rugby for Kamashi in Japan, and Samuel Slade.

Saracens backrower Theo McFarland will start in a formidable loose forward trio along with openside flanker Murphy Taramai and Nola Gold No. 8 Olajuwon Noa. That completes a forward pack that includes players from multiple leagues around the world.

The Moana Pasifika halves duo of Jonathan Taumateine and Alai D’Angelo Leuila will steer Manu Samoa’s attack around the park. This is a team with genuine attacking threats out-wide including the midfield of Danny Toala and Alapati Leiua.

Fixture
Internationals
Samoa
33 - 25
Full-time
Italy
All Stats and Data

Nigel Ah Wong joins Counties Manukau flyer Sebastian Visinia on a wing each, while 2015 Australia U20s representative Duncan Paia’au will line up as the starting fullback.

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Moana Pasifika have two representatives on the bench. Those players are Michael Cury and Melani Matavao.

This match at Apia Park in Samoa is scheduled to get underway at 5:00 pm WST on Friday.

Manu Samoa to take on Italy

  1. Aki Seiuli
  2. Sama Malolo
  3. Marco Fepuleai
  4. Benjamin Petaia Nee-Nee
  5. Samul Slade
  6. Theo McFarland
  7. Murphy Taramai
  8. Olajuwon Noa
  9. Jonathan Taumateine
  10. Alai D’Angelo Leuila
  11. Nigel Ah Wong
  12. Danny Toala
  13. Alapati Leiua
  14. Sebastian Visinia
  15. Duncan Paia’au

Replacements

  1. Andrew Tuala
  2. Tietie Tuimauga
  3. Lolani Faleiva
  4. Michael Curry
  5. Iakopo Mapu
  6. Melani Matavao
  7. Afa Moleli
  8. Stacey Ili

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finn 5 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

What a difference 9 months makes! Last autumn everyone was talking about how important versatile bench players were to SA’s WC win, now we’re back to only wanting specialists? The timing of this turn is pretty odd when you consider that some of the best players on the pitch in the SA/Ireland match were Osbourne (a centre playing out of position at 15), Feinberg-Mngomezulu (a fly-half/centre playing out of position at 15), and Frawley (a utility back). Having specialists across the backline is great, but its not always necessary. Personally I think Frawley is unlikely to displace Crowley as first choice 10, but his ability to play 12 and 15 means he’s pretty much guaranteed to hold down a spot on the bench, and should get a decent amount of minutes either at the end of games or starting when there are injuries. I think Willemse is in a similar boat. Feinberg-Mngomezulu possibly could become a regular starter at 10 for the Springboks, but he might not, given he’d have to displace Libbok and Pollard. I think its best not to put all your eggs in one basket - Osbourne played so well at the weekend that he will hopefully be trusted with the 15 shirt for the autumn at least, but if things hadn’t gone well for him he could have bided his time until an opportunity opened up at centre. Similarly Feinberg-Mngomezulu is likely to get a few opportunities at 15 in the coming months due to le Roux’s age and Willemse’s injury, but given SA don’t have a single centre aged under 30 its likely that opportunities could also open up at 12 if he keeps playing there for Stormers. None of this will discount him from being given gametime at 10 - in the last RWC cycle Rassie gave a start at 10 to Frans Steyn, and even gave de Klerk minutes there off the bench - but it will give him far more opportunities for first team rugby.

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