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Former All Black Steven Luatua to suit up for Samoa in November

By Tom Vinicombe
Steven Luatua

Two former All Blacks will join Samoa’s ranks for their upcoming trip to Europe.

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Manu Samoa will head north in November to take on Italy, Georgia and Romania and they’ll have the services of two former All Blacks on their books in the forms of Steven Luatua and Jeff Toomaga-Allen.

Luatua made 15 appearances for New Zealand between 2013 and 2016 before relocating to England and linking up Bristol Bears. Prop Toomaga-Allen debuted for the All Blacks in 2013, taking on Japan in Tokyo, and made two further non-Test appearances in 2017. He departed NZ ahead of the 2019 World Cup and spent two seasons with Wasps but this year is turning out for Ulster in the United Rugby Championship.

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Changes to World Rugby’s eligibility policy that were enacted late last year allow players who have previously featured for one Test side to switch allegiances provided they have served a three-year stand-down period from international rugby. Luatua and Toomaga-Allen are the latest players to take advantage of the change, with the likes of Fritz Lee, Charles Piutua and Israel Folau all featuring for Pacific Island sides earlier in the season.

Luatua – who is currently sidelined through injury and may not be fit in time to feature for the Manu – and Toomaga-Allen are two of eight new caps named by Manu Samoa head coach Vaovasamanaia Seilala Mapusua for their three-match tour to the Northern Hemisphere.

https://twitter.com/manusamoa/status/1577460035248349184/photo/1

Toulon’s Brian Alainu’uese and Duncan Paia’aua, Moana Pasifika and North Harbour hooker Luteru Tolai, Stade Francais’ Talalelei Gray, incoming Waratahs flanker Taleni Seu and local product Des Sepulona could all make their Test debuts in November. While utility back Paia’aua was originally named in Samoa’s squad for this year’s Pacific Nations Cup, he didn’t travel with the team.

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In fact, there’s some significant turnover from the squad that did triumph at this year’s tournament, with 15 players named to travel north who weren’t on deck as Samoa scored wins against Fiji, Tonga and Australia A in Suva and Lautoka.

This year’s tour will prove an important yardstick for Manu Samoa ahead of next year’s World Cup, with all three matches very winnable.

First up, Samoa will take on an Italian side who claimed a 24-13 victory the last time the two side’s squared off – although Samoa historically hold the wool over their opposition, having triumphed in five of their seven encounters to date.

On just five occasions have Samoa and Georgia gone to battle, with the Georgian scoring wins in three of the last four clashes, including the most recent game in 2018. Los Lelos have never won by more than eight points, however, whereas Manua Samoa scored a big 46-9 win at the 2003 Rugby World Cup.

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Finally, Samoa will take on Romania in what will be just the third fixture between the two sides, with the Stejarii grabbing four- and eight-point wins in their previous two encounters.

Next year, Samoa will be placed in an incredibly tough pool alongside England, Argentina, Japan and Chile.

Samoa squad:

Backs: Tomasi Alosio, Des Sepulona, Tumua Manu, Joe Perez, Duncan Paia’aua, Alapati Leiua, Nigel Ah Wong, Danny Toala, Stacey Ili, Ulupano Seuteni, Rodney Iona, D’Angelo Leuila, Ere Enari, Jonathan Taumateine.

Forwards: Fritz Lee, Talalelei Gray, Afaesetiti Amosa, Jordan Taufua, Steven Luatua, Taleni Seu, Theo McFarland, Brian Alainu’uese, Chris Vui, Michael Ala’alatoa, Jeff Toomaga-Allen, Donald Brighouse, Nephi Leatigaga, Jordan Lay, Seilala Lam, Manu Leiataua, Luteru Toloi.

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