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Samoa roll out big guns for World Cup opener

By Tom Vinicombe
Steven Luatua of Samoa poses for a portrait during the Samoa Rugby World Cup 2023 Squad photocall on September 05, 2023 in Montpellier, France. (Photo by Adam Pretty - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

After a season of chopping and changing, Samoan head coach Vaovasamanaia Seilala Mapusua has settled on a strong match-day 23 for the side’s opening World Cup clash with Chile.


Three weeks following an impressive showing against the world’s top ranked side, Ireland, in Bayonne, Mapusua has made just three changes to the starting line-up that came within a whisker of knocking the Irish off their perch.

Regular captain Michael Alaalatoa has been reinstated to the No 3 jersey in place of Paul Alo-Emile and will partner James Lay and Seilala lam in the front row.

The back five all retain their spots from the previous match, with Chris Vui and Theodore McFarland named as locks and Taleni Seu, Fritz Lee and Steven Luatua rounding out the forward pack.

In the halves, Jonathan Taumateine retains the No 9 jersey while the experienced Christian Leali’ifano comes into the starting line-up in place of former All Blacks Lima Sopoaga, who performed admirably in his Manu Samoa Test debut against Ireland.

Leali’ifano is one of three players in the team, alongside Luatua and Sopoaga, to have previously played Test rugby for another nation. While Luatua and Sopoaga represented New Zealand, Leali’ifano was Australia’s top points scorer from the 2019 World Cup.

Tumua Manu and Ulupano Junior Seuteni hold down the midfield while Danny Toala’s introduction on the right wing is the sole change to the back three. Nigel Ah Wong holds his spot on the left while France-based Duncan Paia’aua will don the No 15 jersey for the second match in a row after spending the earlier Tests in the midfield.


Samoa’s battle with Chile will kick off at 3pm CET on Saturday from the Stade de Bordeaux.

Samoa: Duncan Paia’aua, Danny Toala, Ulupano Seuteni, Tumua Manu, Nigel Ah Wong, Christian Leali’ifano, Jonathan Taumateine, Steven Luatua, Fritz Lee, Taleni Seu, Theodore McFarland, Chris Vui, Michael Alaalatoa, Seilala Lam, James Lay. Reserves: Sama Malolo, Jorday Lay, Paul Alo-Emile, Samuel Slade, Jordan Taufua, Ereatara Enari, Lima Sopoaga, Ed Fidow.


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