Manu Samoa head coach Steve Jackson has named a 33-man squad for the upcoming Pacific Nations Cup, three months ahead of the World Cup in Japan. Fans can buy Rugby World Cup Final Tickets online.
The team features eight new caps, with plenty of players coming from the domestic Super 9 competition, which had impressed Jackson in terms of playing quality.
“I’ve watched it over the last couple of weeks, the semis and the final and previously a couple of round robin fixtures as well and the quality of rugby over here in that Super 9 competition is quite outstanding,” Jackson said.
“We can always look at New Zealand and Australia and other clubs around the world but I think we’ve got the same sort of quality players here and it’s just about us now as a coach and a management group giving them the tools so they can be as good as they possibly can be, not only in the PNC but the Rugby World Cup and beyond.”
Jackson conceded that this was not the strongest squad he could have selected for the pre-World Cup tournament, but said all players in the squad will have the opportunity to push their case for the global showpiece event, which kicks off in September.
“There are obviously some visible people that aren’t named in this Pacific Nations Cup squad which will be available for the World Cup,” he said.
But it was a decision made by the coaches for us to make sure that when we go to Rugby World Cup we know that we’ve got 40-plus players that can play at the international level and will be ready for Rugby World Cup.
Some players were unavailable for the Pacific Nations Cup due to club commitments, while one unnamed player, who has previously represented Samoa at a World Cup, has already ruled himself out of contention.
“To be honest we’ve had one player, to look after his financial security, turn the opportunity down to go to a Rugby World Cup purely because the financial benefit to him is just what he needs to do for him and his family,” Jackson said.
“I can understand that. He’s already been to a World Cup with Manu Samoa and you can only support these players with the decision that they make and it’s an opportunity for someone else to step in and take his opportunity.”
The former Blues assistant coach and North Harbour head coach said other players with dual nationality, such as Worcester-bound Blues fullback Melani Nanai and Leicester-bound Crusaders flanker Jordan Taufua, both of whom represented Samoa at U20 level and have spent time training with the All Blacks, remain on the radar for World Cup selection.
“There are certain players that have to make decisions because they are dual eligibility and we’ve made contact with a few players in regards to that,” Jackson said.
No permanent captain has yet been named for the 2019 campaign, although Chris Vui and Jack Lam, who both skippered the side last year, have been included in the squad.
The squad will assemble in Auckland in three weeks’ time before facing Tonga in Apia on July 27, and then the United States and Fiji in Suva in the following weeks.
They will then go on to face the Wallabies at Bankwest Stadium in Sydney on September 7, two-and-a-half weeks prior to their World Cup opener against Russia in Kumagaya on September 24.
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