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Manu Samoa tour hits early snag

MANAGER Namulauulu Sami Leota and HEAD COACH Stephen Betham. [Samoa Observer]

Manu Samoa’s plan for its tour of the Northern Hemisphere has hit a snag.

France has refused to release six members of the team for a three-day camp ahead of the first test against Canada.

The players – who are playing professional rugby for clubs all over France - include Manu Samoa’s entire front row, Census Johnston, Ti’i Paulo and ViliamuAfatia. The other players include Ole Avei, Daniel Leo and Joe Tekori.

“The three day camp is very important,” Head Coach Stephen Betham told the Samoa Observer yesterday. “It’s why we wanted all our players included. The France Rugby Union (FRU) have said that they cannot release the players until the Canada test.”

Betham said the FRU’s refusal is an early setback. But there is nothing he can do and he’s left it with the Samoa Rugby Union (SRU) to deal with the issue.

“The Samoa Rugby Union (SRU) has invoked regulation nine of the international rules and regulations,” he said. “The matter is now being dealt with between the SRU, FRU and the International Rugby Board (IRB).”

But the France-based players are not the only problem.

The team is set to lose one of their most experienced players, Paul Williams.

“Paul was injured during a game last weekend and doctors have ruled him out for about two weeks,” said Betham. “We are hoping to call up George Pisi who was not named in our squad due to injury.

“We watched Pisi play during the weekend and he seem back on his feet, we’re hoping to catch up with him in New Zealand and see whether he is on board.”

During a press conference yesterday, Betham and Team manager Namulauulu Sami Leotasaid the Northern Hemisphere tour – which includes a test against France – would be a big challenge for the team.

“This is a very important tour for the Manu Samoa in terms of rebuilding for the World Cup in 2015.If we want good result preparations starts now,”Betham said.“Playing teams like France and Wales is not easy.Both teams are ranked in the top five in the world but it will be a good experience for the boys.

“Ultimately, we are looking at building a team for the World Cup, expand our squad and make up the numbers so that we have a wide base to choose from.”

Betham said he also wants to improve Samoa’s ranking.

“If we do well against France and Wales, there is a good chance we will move from tenth to eighth place in the world ranks.Eight is a good place to be.

“The exposure for the younger, newer guys will be good as well; playing Wales in Wales will be an eye opener.”

Bethamand three locally based players are heading to New Zealand this week.

“The rest of the coaching staff is in New Zealand.We also have seven players who are based there that we need to pick up before we head to Britain.

“With the coaching staff all together, we will be planning the course for the next five weeks while on tour.We don’t have enough time to get together and so we need to hit the ground running.”

Bethamis pleased with the recruitment of former captain, Pat Lam as the Attack Coach and Mentor.

“Pat Lam contacted us and asked if we needed help with our preparations,” he said.“So we took him on board.We are not judging him by the performance of the Blues.

“We made our call by the results he has produced over the years, not just one year. We think he deserves a second chance and so he is very welcomed to the Manu Samoa.

“Pat will work on skills.If there is a player who we think needs to be developed instead of holding up training for the rest of the team, Pat will work with the player and when he is ready we introduce him back into training.”

Bethamsaid the ultimate goal is to develop a team worthy of the World Cup.

“The path to the World Cup starts here and now.We have approached all the players we have and have given them the opportunity to come on board and play for their country.



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