Samoa Ready For Massive Year Ahead

When Samoa travelled to Twickenham to take on Rugby World Cup 2015 hosts England on November 22, last year, many of the names on the visitors’ team sheet found themselves
29 Jan 2015 09:44
Samoa Ready For Massive Year Ahead

When Samoa travelled to Twickenham to take on Rugby World Cup 2015 hosts England on November 22, last year, many of the names on the visitors’ team sheet found themselves in familiar surroundings.
Seven of Samoa’s starting 15 that day currently play their club rugby in England and, despite having succumbed 28-9 in front of a near capacity crowd, the Samoan management team will no doubt regard their squad’s familiarity with the host nation as something that can be capitalised on at this year’s Rugby World Cup.
Samoa is set to light up communities across the country.
The RWC 2015 fixture list means that the South Pacific Islanders will enjoy a regional spread of team bases and match-day venues, starting their campaign on the south coast in Brighton and wrapping up the group stages in Newcastle. Five members of Samoa’s squad in particular will already be acquainted with the delights of the north east: Kane Thompson, Jamie Helleur, Sinoti Sinoti and Anitelea and Alesana, the Tuilagi brothers, all play their club rugby with Newcastle Falcons.
Samoa will kick off their RWC campaign on the opening weekend of the tournament against USA at the Brighton Community Stadium. The second round of matches will see Samoa swap one of England newest stadia for one of the country’s more traditional football grounds, as they head to the midlands for a clash against two-times RWC winners South Africa at Birmingham’s Villa Park. A week later, Samoa will take on Japan at StadiumMK in Milton Keynes before a potentially decisive showdown with Scotland at Newcastle’s St. James’ Park.
So, with eight months to go until Samoa return to England for RWC 2015, we caught up with Samoa’s team manager Namulauulu Sami Leota, logistics manager Aloi Alesana and team liaison officer to find out more about preparations in the Samoan camp ahead of this year’s showpiece event.

Q: Samoa will be based at four different team bases during the tournament. Tell us about the bases you’ve seen so far.
Sami Leota: We’ll be based at the University of Brighton, Milton Keynes and MK Dons, Sutton Coldfield RFC and Gateshead during the tournament and all of the bases that we’ve seen so far are all excellent. The whole idea about team bases is to create a positive environment for the team during their preparations. All of the team bases we will be staying at during the pool stage are top quality and have everything that we require as a team. The boys are going to love it. All of the facilities we have seen are great and we are very happy at this stage.

Q: How important are training conditions in terms of the performance you put out on the pitch?
SL: Very important. The vast majority of our players are professional, so having top quality facilities at our team bases during Rugby World Cup 2015 is key to implementing what we practise in training. We expect nothing but the best, and that’s what we’ve seen so far.

Q: In terms of the match-day venues that you will be playing at, Samoa will play at four football stadiums. How do you think these grounds will lend themselves to rugby?
Aloi Alesana: The stadiums we have seen are amazing and for me it doesn’t matter if they are football or rugby grounds. I really hope that all of the matches we play in sell out and I have no doubts that we will experience a great atmosphere at these venues during the tournament. The team bases, the stadiums, everything feels very positive at this stage.

Q: Samoa have a host of players based abroad. From a team manager’s perspective does this make your job more challenging?
SL: Organising a team at a major international tournament is always going to present many challenges. In Samoa’s case this is especially true because we have players based all over the world, so it becomes more complicated to understand what routes the players are coming in from and exactly what time they are given away from their clubs.
It is a challenge to get the boys together but this year we will be together for the Pacific Nations Cup and a training camp in Samoa, so pulling the team together for Rugby World Cup 2015 will not be as challenging as, for example, a November tour. We will basically have the team together from the Pacific Nations Cup right through until Rugby World Cup 2015. The boys are all looking forward to it immensely.”

Q: All of the participating teams will be assigned team liaison officers to support team managers during the tournament. What qualities do you look for in a team liaison officer?
SL: We are fortunate to have been assigned two very experienced team liaison officers in Keith and Mike. They are both passionate about rugby and they understand our culture as they have worked with the Samoa team in the past. There will be challenging times, but if we all work together we’ll get the results we want.

Q: How does it feel to know that you’ll be working with the Samoan team at this year’s Rugby World Cup?
Keith: It’s a privilege and an honour. As Sami said, it’s all about creating a positive environment in the camp. I have a huge respect for the Samoan people, their culture and what they represent. Our job as Team Liaison Officers is to take all the pressure away from the players so that they can have a really good experience during the tournament and focus on what they need to do on the pitch. We need to be in the background helping to ensure that everything flows smoothly and, to be honest, the less the players see of us the better. At the end of the tournament we want the players to think “Who were those guys? We hardly saw them at all!” That’s the sort of environment we want to help Sami create.

Q: What sort of a reception can Samoa expect in England at tournament time?
Keith: I think that everyone who comes into contact with the Samoan boys is going to absolutely love them, and I can see many people adopting them as their second team while they are over here. From the south coast to the midlands and then the north east, we are going to be based at team bases around the country. It’s going to be a fantastic journey for everyone involved and we can’t wait to get started.

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