The jury is still out on whether Tim Nanai-Williams will make it as an international No 10.
The 28-year-old Manu Samoa first five played his third test in a row at pivot on the weekend, slotting two goals as his side went down 48-14 to England at Twickenham.
Nanai-Williams, more accustomed to operating at centre, wing or fullback, has made a reasonable fist of his new post, though ironically his early drop of a high ball helped gift England’s opening try to Alex Lozowski. Otherwise he was busy on attack and made 11 tackles. His problem will be that the Chiefs are looking to play All Blacks fullback Damian McKenzie at first five in 2018, so his opportunities there will be limited. In fairness, Nanai-Williams is better suited out wide where he can give full rein to his expansive mindset. Samoa are transitioning from a decade with Tusi Pisi as their pivot, so this measure may just be a stop-gap.
Former North Harbour captain Chris Vui was again inspirational for Samoa, leading from the front and scoring a nice try, his first in internationals, in the corner, using all his skill. The TMO gave his assent. His former North Harbour teammate Josh Tyrell locked the scrum with him.
Samoa looked good in patches against England, with the likes of openside flanker TJ Ioane and centre Kieron Fonotia both having their moments. Alapati Leiua put on some big hits. However, Samoa has not won a test in 2017, which must be galling to their legion of fans.
Piers Francis, who played several seasons with Nanai-Williams’ Steelers, was a late sub for England.
Two ‘Kilted Kiwis’ appeared for Scotland in their 53-24 crushing of Australia.
Sean Maitland was a late switch to fullback for the injured Stuart Hogg, and he showed his pace with a long-range try down the left flank. Former Highlanders and Chiefs midfielder Phil Burleigh won his first cap, on residency, off the bench.
The result was probably sealed after Sekope Kepu, an alumnus of Wesley College and the 2007 New Zealand Under 21s, crashed his shoulder into the jaw of Hamish Watson, thus incurring a red card. Taniela Tupou, who exploded into the 2014 Auckland 1A First XV competition with a televised hat-trick for Sacred Heart against Kelston, made his long-awaited Wallaby debut off the bench.
France and Japan drew 23-all, one of the latter’s tries going to centre Timothy Lafaele, once a student of Auckland’s De La Salle College.
Bundee Aki was back in the No 12 jersey as Ireland swept the autumn internationals, winning 28-19 over the Pumas.
Fiji’s Ben Volavola again kicked goals, three of them, as the Flying Fijians dispatched Canada 57-17.
Tonga defeated Romania 25-20 in Bucharest. Tries to Atieli Pakalani (15) and George Taina (10), with Tane Takalua (9) adding the extras saw a good finish to the season for the Ikale Tahi.
South Africa discarded Italy 35-6, with Jayden Hayward and Dean Budd turning out again for the Azzurri.
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