7 Jul 2015

Manu Samoa 'grow limbs' to take on ABs

4:19 pm on 7 July 2015

The Manu Samoa team will "grow an arm and a leg" when they take on the All Blacks in an historic test in Apia this week, All Blacks great Michael Jones says.

Manu Samoa captain Ofisa Treviranus.

Manu Samoa captain Ofisa Treviranus. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The test is the first the All Blacks have ever played in Samoa and the first official one in the Pacific, despite many players over the years coming from a Pasifika background.

"Iceman" Jones is one of the best known. Born in Auckland to a Kiwi-Samoan couple, he played his first international for Samoa against Wales on the very ground where Manu Samoa will take on the All Blacks on Wednesday.

He played only one game for Samoa before becoming an All Black. A member of the winning All Blacks team at the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987, he scored the opening try in both the 1987 and 1991 Rugby World Cups.

But he told Radio New Zealand he was torn every time he played against what he calls his motherland.

"Any time Samoa and New Zealand have played, even if I've been on the field playing for the All Blacks against a Samoan team, it's always been the most challenging game because you are really torn," he said.

"It just comes with the territory - you're proud to be a Kiwi but you also have this very strong, powerful link back to the motherland, I suppose."

Michael Jones from the Pacific Peoples Advancement Trust.

Michael Jones: match will be "intimidating" for the All Blacks. Photo: Supplied

Jones said excitement over the game was reaching fever pitch in Apia, and the All Blacks' arrival tonight would send it to another level.

But he warned the game would be no walk in the park for the world champion All Blacks.

"The (Manu Samoa) boys will obviously grow an arm and a leg because they know the significance of this for Samoan rugby and even the future of Samoan rugby.

"If there was ever a chance for them to knock off the mighty All Blacks, it's really this chance.

"Yes, there'll be a lot of superstars turning up, but for these boys it just won't mean a thing. It'll be just the fact that they can go head to head, toe to toe, with that most powerful of rugby brands in the world, and it'll be on their soil, on their whenua, on their land.

"So there'll be another intensity to the Samoan game, and it will be hot, the ground will be hard, and there will be (thousands of) screaming Samoans supporting the men in blue, so it's going to be very intimidating."

Another man who knows what it's like to have a foot in both camps is Manu Samoa co-coach Alama Ieremia, who also started his international career playing for Samoa before becoming an All Black.

Manu Samoa Assistant Coach Namulauulu Alama Ieremia.

Manu Samoa assistant coach Alama Ieremia. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

He said it was a massive occasion for the country and his team would give it everything they had.

"There's a lot of experience now in this Manu Samoa team and a lot of the players are certainly excited about the opportunity to play the All Blacks here in our own backyard.

"A lot of these players have had the opportunity to play them in New Zealand and they've been one-sided affairs, I suppose.

"But here's an opportunity to play them in our backyard, where the conditions are a little bit different, and obviously a special occasion. So our players are certainly excited about it and we're certainly approaching this game as a game which we will try and win."

Ieremia said the match was about more than just rugby; the government was right behind the Samoa Rugby Union in terms of making sure the event went off without a hitch. They had a vested interest, he said, as they hoped the match would be the first of many tests on Samoan soil.

"The government are really making sure that we prepare and we put on a performance in a hosting situation where people will be excited about coming to the islands, and infrastructure and facilities are in place."

Ieremia said the team was really excited to promote Samoa on the international scene.

"So it is a big occasion, not only for the rugby but also for the country as a whole."

Manu Samoa captain Ofisa Treviranus with several local parliamentarians at the squad naming for the All Blacks test.

Manu Samoa captain Ofisa Treviranus with several local parliamentarians at the squad naming for the All Blacks test. Photo: RNZI / Tipi Autagavaia

Ieremia said he hoped the test will be the first of many between the two nations on Samoan soil, but New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew said he could not commit to further games.

"We've got to be realistic. The international rugby calendar is incredibly full, there's no way of avoiding that - we've got a lot of commitments in terms of domestic rugby and the international programme."

He said the union had to fit in extra games as best it could.

"I'm delighted we've managed to do that this year - it works for us and it works very well for the Samoan Rugby Union, but it won't be easy to replicate in the near future."

However, Mr Tew said the union would keep an open mind and do its best to organise a repeat of this week's first official test match.

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