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Tuilagi's challenge: 'If that jersey means a lot to you, show it this game'

By Ned Lester
Alesana Tuilagi. GettyImages-491125948

Manu Samoa have been challenged to find pride in the jersey in the nation’s final Rugby World Cup match against pool D leaders England.

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The impassioned challenge came from Manu Samoa legend and world-renowned hardman Tuilagi Alesana Tuilagi, who was frustrated at his nation’s World Cup campaign.

Manu Samoa claimed a win in their opening game of the tournament, beating Chile 43-10 in Bordeaux. Since then, the team have lost tight contests against Argentina (19-10) and Japan (28-22), sealing their fate of a pool-stage exit.

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There were high hopes for the team after a second-place finish in the Pacific Nations Cup just months ago, where they beat both Tonga and Japan.

The addition of former All Blacks Steven Luatua and Lima Sopoaga also boosted the team’s ambitions, but the first five-eighth has suffered an injury-plagued tournament. Sopoaga also had his long-serving kicking tee stolen and despite pleas on social media for its return, it is yet to be found.

Defence

181
Tackles Made
83
31
Tackles Missed
21
85%
Tackle Completion %
80%

The team have one last chance to play to their potential and light up the tournament in Lille, where they will look to follow the lead of their Fijian brothers and claim a maiden win over the English.

“I want to see the flair of our Manu Samoa,” Tuilagi told RWC on Island. “They haven’t shown it yet.

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“We need to use our physical game. we haven’t used our physical players in these last two games.

“And we need to be disciplined. They’re silly penalties – I’m not sure if silly or stupid – that cost us the game. You cannot play 12 or 13 players against this team, going into the England game.

“Play with some confidence, don’t hold back. Don’t just go there, go with some confidence.

“Show some respect for the jersey you’re wearing, because it’s not yours. You’re just borrowing it. That jersey means a lot from all the legends that played the game.

“If that jersey means a lot to you, show it. Show it this game.

“It’s not club rugby we’re playing, we are playing international rugby. You have to be 100 per cent everything you do. Because you don’t want to let your team down. You don’t want to let your brothers down.

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“Your brothers doing the hard work, and you drop the ball, you gave away penalties, yellow card, you go have your coffee for 1o minutes while your brothers are fighting on the field.

“Those kinds of little things. You need to be 100 per cent – your mind going in this game. You’re going to win. You’re going to win.”

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The onus went more specifically on the backs, who were guilty of dropping balls and receiving both a yellow and red card in the match.

For the forwards, Tuilagi had some praise, which was shared by Black Ferns legend and four-time world champion Fiao’o Fa’amausili – who had just discovered the pair share heritage, hailing from the same village in Samoa.

“I have been impressed with the forwards… their maul, their lineout, their set pieces are solid. They’re setting the platform right for the team. Then, when it gets to the back, everyone’s indecisive, they’re unsure what to do.

“Then it gets the forwards doing just one-off runners, that really puts pressure on a team because their gameplan goes out the window.

She said the backs were making simple errors that could be fixed, the team just needed to be more sensible with the ball in hand and avoid the temptation of “fancy passes”.

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