18 Sep 2019

Sport: Manu Samoa wary of Russian revolution

1:41 pm on 18 September 2019

Manu Samoa are adamant there will be no complacency when they open their Rugby World Cup campaign against Russia next week.

The Manu started 2019 with victory over Tonga in Apia but suffered narrow defeats by the USA and Fiji before pushing the Wallabies all the way in Parramatta, 34-15.

Samoa midfielder Alapati Leiua.

Samoa midfielder Alapati Leiua. Photo: Photosport

Samoa have not reached the quarter finals of the global tournament since 1995 and face a tough ask to advance from Pool A with Ireland, Scotland and hosts Japan all ranked inside the world's top 10. The Manu are 16th.

That makes Tuesday's opening game against Russia in Kumagaya an absolute must-win.

The Bears lost all four matches on World Cup debut eight years ago and failed to qualify for the 2015 event but Samoan hooker, Motu Matu'u, insists the European minnows will be no easy-beats.

"Teams having the underdog badge is quite a big thing and everyone talks about Russia as a walk in the park," Matu'u said.

"Any team can get the win on any given day and we're going to take every game like a final," he said.

"If there's anything that we need to work on as a team collectively is understanding our game plan and having pure clarity in what we do."

Russian players during Rugby World Cup 2011 game against Australia.


Fixture fatigue

For once Samoa could be the ones to benefit from the perils of Rugby World Cup scheduling.

In 2011, there was uproar when the Samoans were forced to play their four pool games in just 17 days, including a four-day turnaround between their matches against Namibia and Wales.

This time it's Russia who will have to back-up against the Manu just four days on from their first match against Japan, the opening game of the tournament.

New Zealand, South Africa and England all face four-day turnarounds this year with World Rugby making some attempt to even the ledger between the haves and have nots, however, their discomfort will be kept to a minimum with opponents Namibia, Canada and the USA hardly expected to warrant the need for full-strength line-ups.

Beauden Barrett.

Beauden Barrett. Photo: Photosport

Matu'u said things were slowly getting better for tier two nations but there was still a long way to go.

"There's always room to improve the way that we get to access resources and financial backing from World Rugby but being Pacific nations, we just roll with the punches. Whatever comes our way we're a real happy bunch and we're ready to adjust to whatever comes our way," Matu'u said.

Pacific Island nations are fortunate to receive generous support from their local communities, with fundraising events for the Samoan team in Auckland and Sydney over the past few weeks ensuring the players don't go without, Motu'u said.

"A lot of the money comes to the players and then there's separate money that goes into the kitty for team resources. That's things like extra kilos for bags because the boys are only allowed one bag to travel with. Also things like strapping tape... it's the basic things that tier one nations as sponsorship they have," he said.

"We have to raise funds and those funds actually go into things like that to keep the professional environment ticking over."

Dwayne Polataivao scored two tries after coming on in the second half.

Dwayne Polataivao scored two tries after coming on in the second half. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Matu'u is one of eight players in the Samoan squad with previous World Cup experience. The 32-year-old front-rower said he was excited by some of the new blood, which includes 13 players with less than ten test caps.

"This is my second World Cup but I kid you not there are a few new boys in the team who have got more knowledge that we can learn off going forward.

"Having the likes of Michael Alaalatoa coming out of the Crusaders - we know how strong that outfit is - and that can rub off on a few of the boys having that experience and his knowledge as well."

  • Sport: Manu Samoa forced into late World Cup change
  • Sport: Manu Samoa name two new caps in RWC squad
  • PM defends donation to Manu Samoa