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Ex-All Blacks squad member Jordan Taufua to make Samoa debut against Tonga

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Former All Blacks squad member Jordan Taufua has been named to make his test debut for Samoa against Tonga in the Pacific Nations Cup this weekend.

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Taufua, the former three-time Super Rugby title-winning Crusaders loose forward, has been named by Manu Samoa head coach Seilala Mapusua as one of eight test debutants for his side’s clash against the ‘Ikale Tahi at Churchill Park in Lautoka.

Selected to start at No 8, Taufua will make his first outing in test rugby, four years after he was named in the All Blacks squad for their 2018 mid-year test series against France, of which he didn’t feature in due to a broken arm.

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The 30-year-old Lyon star was never called upon by the All Blacks again, and has since been called into the Samoan squad for their Pacific Nations Cup campaign, which got off to a winning start against Australia A in Suva last weekend.

Taufua didn’t feature in Samoa’s last-gasp 31-26 victory at ANZ National Stadium, and will instead debut for his adopted nation, which he represented at U20 level in 2011, on Saturday.

He will be joined by nine other test rugby newcomers, six of whom played in the win over Australia A, which wasn’t considered a test match.

Among those players includes wing Nigel Ah Wong, whose brace on debut last week won the match for Samoa in the dying stages of the game.

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Elsewhere, former Blues and Chiefs midfielder Tumua Manu has been named at second-five for his test debut, despite having not been included in the initial Manu Samoa squad.

The other test debutants in the starting lineup are LA Giltinis prop Andrew Tuala and Moana Pasifika fullback Danny Toala, both of whom featured in the Australia A match.

Likewise, Dragons prop Aki Seiuli, Clermont loose forward Fritz Lee and Moana Pasifika flyer Lolagi Visinia will all make their test debuts for Samoa from the bench after playing against Australia A.

The inclusions of Lee and Visinia come in the wake of World Rugby’s new eligibility laws, which enables players who have represented one country internationally to play for a second nation that they are eligible for via birthright following a three-year stand down period.

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While Lee and Visinia never played test rugby, they did represent the All Blacks Sevens in 2010 and 2012, respectively, which disqualified them from playing for Samoa at test level.

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That has since changed, though, allowing both players to make their test debuts for Samoa after starting against Australia A.

Lee, Lolagi and Seiuli are three of four uncapped Samoan players in the reserves, the other being Moana Pasifika lock Michael Curry.

Manu Samoa will be captained by Leinster prop Michael Alaalatoa, with kick-off against Tonga scheduled for 12pm on Saturday local time.

Samoa team to play Tonga

1. Andrew Tuala*
2. Ray Niuia
3. Michael Alaalatoa (c)
4. Sam Slade
5. Chris Vui
6. Theo McFarland
7. Jack Lam
8. Jordan Taufua*
9. Jonathan Taumateine
10. AJ Alatimu
11. Nigel Ah Wong*
12. Tumua Manu*
13. Neria Fomai
14. Ed Fidow
15. Danny Toala*

Reserves

16. Seilala Lam
17. Aki Seiuli*
18. Kalolo Tuiloma
19. Michael Curry*
20. Fritz Lee*
21. Auvasa Falealii
22. D’Angelo Leuila
23. Lolagi Visinia*

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