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Ex-All Black set for Samoa debut against Fiji

By Ian Cameron
Samoa's players line up for their national anthem at the start of the rugby union match between Japan and Samoa in the Lipvitan D Challenge Cup at the Sapporo Dome in Sapporo on July 22, 2023. (Photo by Richard A. Brooks / AFP) (Photo by RICHARD A. BROOKS/AFP via Getty Images)

Former All Blacks back row Steven Luatua is set to make his debut for Samoa as his new side face Fiji in Apia this weekend.

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Luatua brings a wealth of experience and skill to the Samoan side, having won 15 caps for New Zealand before departing for the Gallagher Premiership back in 2017.

While the excitement surrounding Luatua’s debut runs high, there is also a tinge of disappointment as another former All Black, Lima Sopoaga, misses out on the opportunity to represent Samoa for the time being at least. His recent relocation to Japan has stalled his debut for now.

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“Lima is waiting for his visa to relocate to Japan,” Head coach Seilala Mapusua told RugbyPass this week. “We were hoping he could be available for this weekend. We have been keeping him involved with training and team meetings via our comms platform and he is training in France. He is training on his own – well, he better be! Lima should be available for the Tonga game.”

Jordan Lay, Ray Niuia, and Paul Alo-Emile form a robust front row, while Chris Vui and Taleni Seu combine in the second row. Luatua, slots into the back row, supported by the experienced duo of Jack Lam and Fritz Lee at the flanker and number eight positions, respectively.

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Ereatara Enari is named at scrum-half, while former Wallaby Christian Leali’ifano orchestrates the play at fly-half. The explosive duo of Tumia Manu and Duncan Paia’aua forms the midfield, while Stacey Ili and Nigel Ah Wong are on the wings.

Completing the starting lineup is the reliable Danny Toala at fullback.

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On the bench, former All Black prop Charlie Faumuina awaits his chance to make an impact.

SAMOA TEAM:
1. Jordan Lay
2. Ray Niuia
3. Paul Alo-Emile
4. Chris Vui
5. Taleni Seu
6. Steven Luatua
7. Jack Lam
8. Fritz Lee
9. Ereatara Enari
10. Christian Leali’ifano
11. Tumia Manu
12. Duncan Paia’aua
13. Stacey Ili
14. Nigel Ah Wong
15. Danny Toala

REPLACEMENTS:
16. Sama Malolo
17. Titi Lamositele
18. Charlie Faumuina
19. Brian Alainu’u’ese
20. Genesis Mamea-Lemalu
21. Melani Matavao
22. Alai D’angelo Leuila
23. Ed Fidow

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