Thirteen new caps have been included in the Manu Samoa rugby squad to play the Māori All Blacks and Tonga in June and July.
Crusaders prop Michael Alaalatoa will captain the 31-man squad and is one of 11 players who featured at the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
Head coach Vaovasamanaia Seilala Mapusua has selected four locally based players, 20 from New Zealand and Australia, with the remaining seven players plying their trade across England, Scotland, France, US and Japan.
"This is a very important initial campaign for us playing the qualifier against Tonga and also privilege to play the Māori All Blacks as lead up to the qualifier," he said.
"This will be my first campaign and considering the impacts of Covid-19 it wasn't an easy task selecting the Manu. However, I am very confident we have the best players to represent the jersey and earn us a spot for the RWC2023."
There are five new faces in the front row with Glasgow Warriors prop Aki Seiuli, former Highlanders tighthead Kalolo Tuiloma and Manawatu number three Tietie Tuimauga all earning a call-up alongside Melbourne Rebels hooker Albert Anae and former Waratahs rake JP Sauni.
Moamoa Roosters lock Theodore McFarland, Counties Manukau loose forward Sam Slade and former Auckland and Canberra back-rower Olajuwon Noa, who now plays for Hunter Wildfires in Newcastle, New South Wales, are the other new caps in the forward pack.
Meanwhile there are five debutants in the backline, with Elisapeta Alofipo, Joe Perez, Losi Filipo, Neria Formai and Tomasi Alosio all having previous international experience with the Manu Samoa men's sevens team.
Glasgow duo TJ Ioane and Aki Seiuli, Northampton fullback Ah See Tuala and Perpignan hooker Seilala Lam are the only European based players to be included, with the likes of Chris Vui, Alapati Leiua and Tim Nanai-Williams unavailable because of the added travel and quarantine restrictions caused by Covid-19.
The including of former captain Jack Lam adds some vital experience to the Manu squad, with the NEC Green Rockets flanker and Kamaisihi lock Ben Nee Nee both having recently completed their club seasons in Japan, while former Western Force first five AJ Alatimu is currently playing for Major League Rugby champions Seattle in the USA.
It has been almost two years since Samoa last took to the field because of the ongoing impact of Covid-19, with 11 of the new squad having featured at the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
Meanwhile an extra match has been added to the schedule. The Manu will now open their New Zealand tour against the Māori All Blacks in Wellington on 26 June.
The two teams will clash again on 3 July in Auckland, as part of a double-header with the All Blacks and Tonga at Mount Smart Stadium.
Samoa and Tonga will then play two Rugby World Cup qualifying tests in Auckland and Hamilton, with the aggregate winner to qualify for the 2023 tournament in France.
Manu Samoa squad:
Ah See Tuala - Northampton, AJ Alatimu - Seattle, USA, Aki Seiuli* - Glasgow, Alamanga Motuga - Counties Manukau, Albert Anae* - Rebels, Auvasa Falealii - Papatoetoe, Ben Nee Nee - Kamaisihi, Japan, D'Angelo Leuila - Fraser Tech, Dwayne Polataivao - Pakuranga, Elisapeta Alofipo* - Tama Uli Salelologa, Henry Stowers - Brumbies, Henry Taefu - Western Force, Jack Lam - NEC Green Rockets, Joe Perez* - Laulii Lions, John Vaili - Aana Chiefs, JP Sauni* - Associates, Australia, Kalolo Tuiloma* - Counties Manukau, Losi Filipo* - Bay of Plenty, Michael Alaalatoa - Crusaders (c), Neria Fomai* - Hawke's Bay, Olajuwon Noa* - Hunter Wildfires, Ray Niuia - Blues, Rodney Yona - Brumbies, Sam Slade* - Counties, Seilala Lam - Perpignan, Stacey Ili - Rebels, Teofilo Paulo - Avalon, Theodore McFarland* - Moamoa Roosters, Tietie Tuimauga* - Manawatu, TJ Ioane - Glasgow, Tomasi Alosio* - Hutt Old Boys Marist.
* new cap