World Cup qualification should matter the most for Samoa

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

It’s an uphill battle for Samoa. That much we know.

During the next few weeks, the Manu Samoa has a lot to do, not just to restore some pride in Samoan rugby but most importantly to secure a spot in next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.

If anything, it will be nice to win over Fiji, Tonga and Georgia in the Pacific Nations Cup, which begins today. Make no mistake about that. How we would love to see the Manu Samoa get back to their winning ways. 

But those victories – should we secure them – will mean absolutely nothing if the men in blue don’t make it to Japan next year. That ultimately should be their focus, whatever they do from now onwards, they should ensure they are in the best shape to nail down that spot for Japan. Time is running out. 

Now looking ahead, the equation seems simple enough. Some people will say that we only have to win against either Germany or Portugal. Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

But it’s not that easy, especially for a team that has been struggling with form for the past couple of years. And knowing what it would mean for a country like Germany to make the World Cup, we cannot afford to underestimate them. Even Portugal. Both of those teams are capable of knocking off Samoa on their day. 

And we haven’t seen anything lately to prove to us that Germany or Portugal would be a walk in the park. Far from it.

Even as they come together for this campaign that starts today, it’s hard to know what we can expect. 

We don’t want to sound negative but gone are the days where when a Manu Samoa team is named, you’d have a fair idea about how they are going to go and you even had an idea about what to expect from them.

Not any more. All the big talk on pride and the honour of representing Samoa and pulling on the blue jersey are still there but we’ve hardly seen anything on the field that would convince us they mean what they say.

If anything, this is the challenge for coach Fuimaono Titimaea Tafua and his troops. It’s about restoring pride in Samoan rugby; it’s about looking at the past and learning the lessons so that they create a new legacy for Samoa to be proud of. One of the best parts when a team hits rock bottom is that there is only one way to go and that is up.

Without the need to look at the details, we know our rugby – not just 15s and sevens – has hit rock bottom. Improvement is sorely needed and it needs to start today. There has been a lot of talk about the potential of Samoan rugby and what have you but all that doesn’t matter if we continue to lose. The bottom line is that we need to start winning rugby.

Against Fiji today in Suva, that is a big ask.

Although the flying Fijians are missing a couple of their big names – including Radradra – they are still fielding a very formidable outfit. They will prove a massive mountain for the Manu Samoa to conquer.

It doesn’t help at all when we stop to look at some of those players, one could be forgiven for thinking they have exceeded their used by dates. Some of those guys are nearing retirement and those legs aren’t getting younger.

Still, let’s pray and give coach Fuimaono the benefit of the doubt that he knows what he is doing. The bottom line is that we hope the team will use these Pacific Nations Cup games to really get themselves into shape to qualify for the Rugby World Cup. As we said at the start, that should be the ultimate focus.

Along the way, it will be nice to humble the flying Fijians in front of their crowd in Suva today. With that said, we wish captain Chris Vui and his team the best of luck today. O outou mama na.

Have a wonderful weekend Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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