Crusaders' Alaalatoa to lead Samoa against Maori All Blacks and Tonga
SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENT: More than a dozen New Zealand-based players, including five from club rugby, have been named in the latest Manu Samoa squad to face the Maori All Blacks and Tonga in June and July.
Announcing his squad on Friday, Manu Samoa head coach Seilala Mapusua named Crusaders prop Michael Alaalatoa as the national captain.
Alaalatoa will be joined by a further six Super Rugby players based out of New Zealand and Australia, while there are four Samoan-based players.
In total, the squad is represented by players plying their club trade in eight different countries – Samoa, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, England, Scotland, France and the United States.
There are also 13 new caps that have been named in the squad, including Glasgow Warriors prop Aki Seiuli, Counties Manukau duo Sam Slade and Kalolo Tuiloma, Melbourne Rebels hooker Albert Anae, Highlanders injury reserve Neria Fomai, former Waratahs hooker JP Sauni and ex-schoolboy star Losi Filipo.
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The selections of those players will alleviate the absence of some European-based Samoan stars, such as Chris Vui of Bristol and Clermont’s Tim Nanai-Williams, due to travel and quarantine restrictions caused by COVID-19.
Mapusua said the upcoming tests, which includes a 2023 World Cup qualifier series against Tonga, is vital for Samoa in what will be the country’s first test appearances since the 2019 World Cup.
“This is a very important initial campaign for us playing the qualifier against Tonga and also privileged to play the Maori 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 Rugby World Cup 2023.”
Manu Samoa will kick their mid-season internationals off on June 26 when they face the Maori All Blacks in Wellington, who they will play again as part of a double-header with the All Blacks and Tonga at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland on July 3.
Mapusua’s side will then play their first World Cup qualifier clash with Tonga in Auckland on July 10, before meeting their Pacific neighbours again on July 17 as part of another double-header with the All Blacks and Fiji at FMG Stadium Waikato in Hamilton on July 17.
Manu Samoa squad: Ah See Tuala, AJ Alatimu, Aki Seiuli, Alamanga Motuga, Albert Anae, Auvasa Falealii, Ben Nee Nee, D’Angelo Leuila, Dwayne Polataivao, Elisapeta Alofipo, Henry Stowers, Henry Taefu, Jack Lam, Joe Perez, John Vaili, JP Sauni, Kalolo Tuiloma, Losi Filipo, Michael Alaalatoa (captain), Neria Formai, Olajuwon Noa, Ray Niuia, Rodney Yona, Sam Slade, Seilala Lam, Stacey Ili, Teofilo Paulo, Theodore McFarland, Tietie Tuimauga, TJ Ioane, Tomasi Alosio