Samoa names squad for historic All Blacks test in Apia
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Samoa’s 27-man squad for next week’s historic one-off rugby test against New Zealand at Apia is heavy with overseas-based players.
The match lineup has yet to be confirmed, but London Irish flanker Ofisa Treviranus was named captain last week, and is likely to combine in an experienced back row with France-based double international Maurie Fa’asavalu and Bristol No. 8 Jack Lam. Fa’asavalu played for Samoa in the 2003 Rugby World Cup, for Britain in rugby league, and switched back in time for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
The Samoa squad announced by Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegao, the Prime Minister and chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union, is drawn from players based in England, France, Japan, New Zealand, and South Africa, highlighting the extent of the Samoan rugby diaspora.
At least 24 of the 27-man squad are permanently based overseas. Among the forwards, hooker Wayne Ole Avei plays in France for Bordeaux-Begles while, of the props, Viliamu Afatia is at Agen, Census Johnston at Toulouse, Anthony Perenise at Bristol, and Sakaria Taulafo at Stade Francais.
Lock Kane Thompson is with Newcastle in England, while among his fellow second-rowers Teofilo Paulo is with the Cardiff Blues and Joe Tekori with Toulouse.
Tusi Pisi, who is likely to start at flyhalf, is based in Japan with Suntory Sungoliath, and may combine with scrumhalf Kahn Fotuali’I, who plays at Northampton.
Fullback Tim Nanai-Williams plays for the Hamilton-based Chiefs in Super Rugby while, of the wingers, Alofa Alofa is with La Rochelle in France, Ken Pisi is with Northampton, and Alesana Tuilagi — brother of England center Manu Tuilagi — is at Newcastle.
The broad professional experience should make the team competitive in Samoa’s first-ever home test against the All Blacks.
“In the forwards alone it’s a big challenge for us as it’s an opportunity, a one-off opportunity to play against the best,” Fa’asavalu said.
The Samoa players have been in camp for some time preparing for the test next Wednesday.
“It’s about every player gelling together ... getting our plays right and the little things that help us make the improvement,” Fa’asavalu said.
New Zealand has yet to name its lineup.
Samoa: Wayne Ole Avei, Ma’atulimanu Leiataua, Viliamu Afatia, Census Johnston, Anthony Perenise, Sakaria Taulafo, Kane Thompson, Teofilo Paulo, Iosefa Tekori, Fa’atiga Lemalu, Alafoti Faosiliva, Jack Lam, Ofisa Treviranus (captain), Maurie Fa’asavalu, T.J. Ioane, Kahn Fotuali’i, Peleifofoga Cowley, Tusi Pisi, Michael Stanley, Alofa Alofa, Ken Pisi, Alesana Tuilagi, Faialaga Afamasaga, Johnny Leota, Paul Perez, Tim Nanai-Williams, Ah See Tuala.