'Conversations off the field are still the same': The unique connection between Samoa's head coach and most experienced player
Mapusua played 26 tests for Samoa between 2006 and 2013 before finishing his playing career in Japan with the Kamaishi Seawaves. Over the past few years, he’s been working with the Otago Rugby Union but was appointed head coach of Manu Samoa part-way through 2020.
Only now, however, has he been able to name the first squad of his tenure as Samoa prepare for matches against the Maori All Blacks and Tonga.
Lam, who’s notched up 35 tests for the island nation, was certainly one of the first names Mapusua would have had on his list, with Lam captaining Manu Samoa during the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
He’s also one of the few players that Mapusua actually played alongside in the deep blue jersey, with Lam debuting against Scotland in the middle of 2013.
The pair played three test matches together, against Scotland, Italy and South Africa.
While it’s somewhat of an unusual scenario, going from teammate to subordinate, it’s not something that will faze Lam.
“Conversations off the field are still the same and on the field he’s pretty much just demanding what he wants from us,” Lam told RugbyPass following Manu Samoa’s squad announcement on Friday.
“And we’re all professionals as well, we all know what’s expected from the coach and the players. We know that relationship.”
“I’ve seen it in the past as well.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) May 28, 2021
Lam is confident that his former teammate is an excellent fit for the role of head coach and the pair will be putting their heads together in the coming weeks to ensure that Samoa can earn an early qualification for the 2023 World Cup – which they’ll be able to accomplish if they win their upcoming series with Tonga.
“On the rugby side of things, he’s always been really tactically aware of the game and his experience speaks for itself – what he’s done on the rugby field,” Lam said.
“Hopefully he can bring a bit of a new spark to our team and hopefully we can start a new legacy now with him and this new team going forward.”
Mapusua named 13 new caps in the squad, including Glasgow Warriors prop Aki Seiuli, Counties Manukau duo Sam Slade and Kalolo Tuiloma, Melbourne Rebels hooker Albert Anae, Highlanders injury reserve Neria Fomai, former Waratahs hooker JP Sauni and ex-schoolboy star Losi Filipo.
A handful of European-based stars won’t be available for the entire series and were thus omitted altogether while a number of up-and-coming Super Rugby players have all but pledged their allegiance to the side – but aren’t available for selection at present.
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