Picking a Samoa 2023 World Cup team under new eligibility laws
World Rugby’s refreshed eligibility laws has caught the global attention of the rugby fraternity over the past 36 hours as excitement builds over how that change in ruling will impact tier two nations.
The two countries with the most to gain from the amended laws are Samoa and Tonga as both nations have a plethora of star players who have now, or will at some stage, become available to play for their Pacific Island teams.
Some of those players will be available to play for those countries immediately, while others will become eligible in the lead-up to the 2023 World Cup in France.
With that in mind, here is a potential match day squad Samoa could roll out against the likes of England, Argentina and Japan in Pool D at the sport’s biggest tournament in two years’ time.
1. Logovi’i Mulipola
A Gallagher Premiership veteran with more than 150 appearances for Leicester Tigers, Newcastle Falcons and Gloucester, Logovi’i Mulipola will likely bid farewell to his 33-test international career at France 2023, by which point he will be 36-years-old.
2. Motu Matu’u
Another long-serving front rower for Samoa – as well as the Hurricanes, Wellington, Gloucester and London Irish – the next World Cup could also be the last hurrah for Motu Matu’u, who will also be 36-years-old when the tournament rolls around.
3. Charlie Faumuina
One of many former All Blacks that Samoa will no doubt be lining up for an international switch of allegiance, Charlie Faumuina played the last of his 50 tests for New Zealand four-and-a-half years ago. That makes the 34-year-old World Cup-winner, who now plays in France for Toulouse, eligible for Samoan selection immediately.
4. Chris Vui
With 18 tests to his name since 2016, Chris Vui has established himself as a key member of the Samoan set-up in recent years, as reflected by his appointment as captain of the national team in 2017 at the age of just 24.
5. Steven Luatua
Faumuina’s ex-All Blacks, Blues and Auckland teammate Steven Luatua could be another former New Zealand international to join Manu Samoa as early as next July. The 30-year-old Bristol Bears star last played for the All Blacks against Italy five years ago, meaning he is now free for selection.
6. Jordan Taufua
Despite being named in the 2018 All Blacks squad to play France, injury prevented Jordan Taufua from ever taking to the field in test rugby for New Zealand. It means the 29-year-old Lyon loose forward is eligible for Samoa, the nation he played for at U20 level in 2011.
7. Du’Plessis Kirifi
Similarly to Taufua, Du’Plessis Kirifi was called into the All Blacks squad as injury cover during last year’s Tri Nations, but never made his test debut. That leaves the 24-year-old Hurricanes star eligible to play for Samoa in the lead-up to and at the next World Cup, while he is still young enough to stand down for three years and have a second crack at the All Blacks.
8. Victor Vito
A two-time World Cup winner, a 2016 Super Rugby champion and an All Blacks veteran of 33 tests, few would add more experience and star power to the Samoan squad than Victor Vito. That prospect could become a reality given the 34-year-old La Rochelle loose forward hasn’t played for New Zealand since the 2015 World Cup.
9. Ere Enari
One of the first signings announced by Super Rugby Pacific expansion side Moana Pasifika, Ere Enari joins the franchise as a potential Manu Samoa representative. Of Samoan and Maori heritage, the 24-year-old would bring with him plenty of experience to the Manu Samoa camp, including five Super Rugby crowns and a 2017 U20 World Championship title.
10. Lima Sopoaga
Another ex-All Black whose test career ended in 2017, Lima Sopoaga is now eligible to represent either Samoa or the Cook Islands, who his brothers play for, under the new rulings. With 16 tests and a 2015 Super Rugby title to his name, the 30-year-old first-five would be a valued addition to either side.
11. Julian Savea
One of the game’s brightest stars during his six-season spell as an All Black, Julian Savea can now revive his international career with Samoa. The 31-year-old Hurricanes wing scored 46 tries in 54 tests between 2012 and 2017, and he didn’t rule out adding to that tally for Samoa in the wake of the World Rugby’s law change.
12. Ma’a Nonu
An all-time rugby icon, Ma’a Nonu would be arguably the biggest name to switch international allegiance if he throws his lot in with Samoa. Even at the age of 39, the San Diego Legion midfielder continues to add quality to each team he’s played for since he made the last of his 103 All Blacks appearances in the 2015 World Cup final, and Samoa would likely benefit from his inclusion.
13. Tim Nanai-Williams
Among the first players to take advantage of World Rugby’s eligibility loophole upon the introduction of sevens to the Olympics, Tim Nanai-Williams has become a staple of the Samoan national squad since his test debut in 2015. That’s unlikely to change for the 32-year-old Toulouse utility back in spite of the rule change.
14. Joe Tomane
Perhaps a forgotten star of the Wallabies and Australian rugby, Joe Tomane could resume his international career after six-year hiatus. The 31-year-old Ricoh Black Rams wing played his 17th and final test for the Wallabies at the 2015 World Cup, after which he left Australia for Ireland, but could add a heap of experience and fire power on the wing for Samoa.
15. Josh Ioane
Two years after making his test debut, Josh Ioane is yet to make his second appearance for the All Blacks. That means that if the 26-year-old Chiefs playmaker doesn’t play for New Zealand in next year’s July test series against Ireland, in the Bledisloe Cup or in the Rugby Championship, then he will be eligible to play for Samoa from September onwards.
16. Ray Niuia
Already a seasoned international for Samoa, Ray Niuia has 10 tests to his name and featured in all four of his nation’s matches at the 2019 World Cup. A Super Rugby Trans-Tasman winner with the Blues this year, the 30-year-old hooker will play for Moana Pasifika in 2022.
17. Aki Seiuli
Set to make his debut for Samoa against the Barbarians at Twickenham this weekend, former Highlanders and Otago prop Aki Seiuli could long-term a long-term prospect for Samoa on the loosehead side of the scrum. The 28-year-old currently plies his trade in Scotland for Glasgow Warriors.
18. Jeff Toomaga-Allen
Eight years after making his only test appearance for the All Blacks, Jeff Toomaga-Allen would add depth and experience to Samoa’s forward pack. Earning selection here ahead of Michael Alaalatoa and Paul Alo-Emile, the 31-year-old Wasps tighthead played a further two non-tests for New Zealand in 2017 and won a Super Rugby title with the Hurricanes in 2016.
19. Sam Slade
Another pick-up for Moana Pasifika, Sam Slade has already committed himself to Samoa by making his first appearances for the nation against the Maori All Blacks and Tonga earlier this year. The 24-year-old utility forward was a member of the world champion New Zealand U20 side of 2017.
20. Alamanda Motuga
Joining Mulipola as one of only two Samoan-born players in this side, Alamanda Motuga has emerged as a standout in the Kiwi domestic scene in recent years. Now signed with Moana Pasifika, the 27-year-old will be eager to add to his three tests ahead of what should be his second World Cup.
21. Jonathan Taumateine
A former Chiefs and Hurricanes halfback, Jonathan Taumateine is another Samoan international who has joined Moana Pasifika for next year. The 24-year-old made his first two test appearances in World Cup qualifiers against Tonga in July.
22. Christian Lealiifano
The inaugural Moana Pasifika signing for 2022, former Wallabies playmaker Christian Lealiifano is due to become eligible for Samoa next September. That will come three years after the 34-year-old’s 26th and final test for Australia in their World Cup quarter-final loss to England, although a call-up from Wallabies boss Dave Rennie shouldn’t be out of the question. If he does indeed opt to switch international allegiance, Samoa could have Lealiifano, Sopoaga and Ioane to pick from at No 10.
23. Denny Solomona
It’s been three years since Denny Solomona played the last of his five tests for England against the Springboks, meaning the 28-year-old Sale Sharks wing is now eligible for Samoa. That could make him a dual-Samoan representative after having played rugby league for the country in 2016.
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