Samoa name first squad of the year three months out from RWC

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.

Samoa name first squad of the year three months out from RWC
Samoa name first squad of the year three months out from RWC

 “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.

Samoa name first squad of the year three months out from RWC
Samoa name first squad of the year three months out from RWC

“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.

Get the latest updates of the Rugby World Cup Tickets from our trusted online ticketing platform. Rugby fanatics can book tickets on reliable rates from our online ticketing market place.

World Rugby says World League will not exclude Pacific Nations

World Rugby has clarified that Pacific Islands will not be excluded from the World League. Proposed 12-team tournament is thought to take place from 2020. Teams playing in the Six Nations Championship (England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales) and The Rugby Championship (Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina) will participate in the new competition. United States and Japan were rumored to the fill the two slots. World Rugby has now revealed that final two positions will be filled on merit through promotion/relegation basis. This means that Fiji, Samoa and Tonga are not locked out of the World League tournament.

CEO of World Rugby Brett Gosper said: “The two-division competition would provide more player opportunities and ensure financial stability for unions. Importantly, participation would be merit-based, based on rankings at an agreed time. Therefore, there is no question of closing out the Pacific Islands as we would be adding two more emerging unions to the top table whilst financing a second tier competition with all the benefits that would bring to the players.”

World Rugby CEO says World League will not force out Pacific nations
World Rugby CEO says World League will not force out Pacific nations

Brett Gosper, CEO of World Rugby hopes that World League will increase competitiveness of the international sport. He reckons that it will benefit the Rugby World Cup also. He thinks that RWC can be expanded to 24 teams in future. Gosper feels that World Rugby can work as qualification tournament for the Webb Ellis Cup as well. He revealed that World League will be two tier tournament, with inclusion in top division dependent on ranking basis. He iterated that World League will not affect British and Irish Lions tours also.

Brett Gosper further stated: “Analysis confirms a more competitive international game, and therefore Rugby World Cup, would heighten the possibility of expanding the tournament to 24 teams. It certainly would not erode the special and unique atmosphere of a Rugby World Cup and it could also act as a qualification vehicle. Lions tours would not be affected as we plan for a lighter programme in those years; the spotlight would be firmly on the Lions.”

Brett Gosper also took to Twitter to quash rumors about the World League. He addressed concerns raised by players and representative bodies. He particularly denied exclusion of Pacific islands from the lucrative tournament.

Pacific Islands consider Rugby World Cup boycott over World League plans

World Rugby members in Pacific Islands are thinking about boycott of 2019 Rugby World Cup over proposed plans of World League. Fiji, Samoa and Tonga are very critical of World Rugby proposal of 12-team World League. New tournament is likely to include teams participating in the Six Nations Championship and Rugby Championship, joined by Japan and United States, from 2020. World Rugby has come under severe criticism over exclusion of Pacific Islands nations. Fiji, Tonga and Samoa are all part of the Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan.

Pacific Rugby Players Welfare (PRPW) wants its 600 members to vote whether they should boycott RWC 2019 to protest the plans of revamp in international Rugby tests calendar. PRPW has asked member unions of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga to join the protest of Pacific islanders against World League. It has urged other player bodies of the region to join to stop the exclusion of Pacific island nations from the new lucrative tournament.

Pacific islands nations Fiji, Samoa and Tonga may miss World League Rugby tournament
Pacific islands nations Fiji, Samoa and Tonga may miss World League Rugby tournament

Chief executive of PRPW and former Samoa captain said: “Now is the time for the voice of Pacific rugby to be heard through our players. World Cup would lose. I don’t think the competition could go ahead if you took out a quarter of the players. We want to be known as a progressive sport – one that’s inclusive, one that allows sides to be promoted and allows sides to have equal opportunity – but the signs are a bit ominous. This would be a disaster for the Pacific Island nations, and for any nation omitted from the top 12 teams. Even if promotion and relegation were involved, all that would happen would be that the top teams would pull away from the rest. Everyone wants to play against the All Blacks, England, and the top teams. If that is ring-fenced, it becomes a real problem. I don’t think you’d find that it would minimize the number of Pacific Islanders playing in that competition I just think you’d see Pacific Islanders playing for everybody else. Really, there is a lot at stake here.”