20 Sep 2017

Sport: Schwalger backs Tafua to succeed with Samoa

1:08 pm on 20 September 2017

Former Manu Samoa rugby captain Mahonri Schwalger has urged people to get behind coach Dickie Tafua and support the team's bid to qualify for the 2019 World Cup.

The veteran coach has been appointed to a second stint in charge, replacing Namulauulu Alama Ieremia, who resigned last month after the team suffered four straight defeats and missed automatic Rugby World Cup qualification.

Fuimaono's first tenure ended in controversy after Samoa failed to qualify for the knockout rounds of the 2011 World Cup.

His captain Mahonri Schwalger was never selected again after criticising the Samoa Rugby Union and team management for their conduct during the tournament.

Mahonri Schwalger last played for Samoa at the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Mo Schwalger at the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Photo: AFP

But the retired hooker, who founded and runs the Rugby Academy of Samoa, said it was time for Samoan rugby to come together in the interests of the team.

"I'm pretty surprised having Dickie Tafua there as the coach but I guess what the Rugby Union now and our people as well need to realise (is) we can't just sit around and criticise whoever's going to come in," he said.

"And I think the most important thing now is for our team to qualify for the World Cup".

"I think we need to get behind Dickie Tafua and this team and we're going to make sure they get the full support from our country and the Rugby Union as well, in order for us to qualify for the World Cup in 2019".

Fuimaono Titimaea Tafua.

Dickie Tafua is back in charge of Manu Samoa. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

A veteran of 42 tests for Samoa and the Pacific Islanders, Schwalger said results had not been the best for the Manu over the past two years and Tafua needed to bring some unity back into the squad.

"Right now the majority of our team get picked from overseas and especially in Europe, so a lot of these guys have been under really professional environments and really really good coaches around the world," he said.

"I think Dickie's got a huge job trying to make sure that we get all the guys from all around the world buying into a system and making sure that these guys agree on the vision he wants to lay forward for the team.

"So Dickie's got the experience and he was obviously our coach for the 2011 (World Cup) and the assistant coaches we had it was a pretty good environment to be in and I believe as well Dickie can bring that back again for this campaign, end of year tour and hopefully we can qualify for 2019".

"That's the main focus now - the challenge is we've got to make sure that we have the best team to qualify for the World Cup," argued Schwalger.

"Dickie's assigned to be the head coach and the players need to have a coach that they respect and that's the main focus - he's got to make sure he has the respect from his players and he's got to make sure that he has the respect from his management as well.

"The problem that we had the last couple of years I've been watching it and I've been seeing a lot of these guys come from all different teams, different cultures and it was pretty hard for Alama (Ieremia) to put them together in one culture.

"I think that's the other reason why the Rugby Union's decided to put Dickie back in there, with the mana and the power that he had, to bring the respect back into the jersey and I think that was the problem we had in the last couple of years, so I think Dickie will do a great job for our people".

Former Manu Samoa captain Mahonri Schwalger taking a scrum session at the Rugby Academy of Samoa.

Former Manu Samoa captain Mahonri Schwalger taking a scrum session at the Rugby Academy of Samoa. Photo: Rugby Academy Samoa

Despite speaking out after the 2011 World Cup, Schwalger believed Samoan Rugby had come a long way off the field in recent years and backed his former coach to make positive change.

"For me when I look at it it looks like it's going around the merry-go-round - things are going around in circles," Schwalger reflected.

"What happened in 2011 there are a few changes that have been happening (since then)...I know Dickie really well and I have a lot of respect for him and what he's done for the country.

"Our Rugby Union will never be the same: all we've got to do is make sure that we move forward and we've got to make sure that we work together for this challenge that we need to qualify for 2019".

Samoa still have two chances to qualify for the World Cup, with the first of those a home and away playoff against a European qualifier in June.

Dickie Tafua's first task will be selecting a squad for Samoa's November tour, which features tests against Scotland, Romania and England.