Europe tops New Zealand as Samoan heartland

Europe has replaced New Zealand as the de facto home of Samoan rugby, if the latest Manu Samoa squad is anything to go by.

A 28-man squad named Sunday for the Pacific Cup series and 2011 World Cup qualifiers contains 14 European-based players, two each from Australia and New Zealand, one from the United States and nine from Samoa itself.

The Samoan squad announcement comes less than four months after one of the principal sponsors of Samoan rugby accused New Zealand of “pinching” the island’s best players by promising big salaries.

Digicel mobile phone magnate Denis O’Brien said he had set up a fund large enough to ensure Samoa’s top 40 players did not have to move elsewhere.

But following weekend trials, Manu Samoa head coach Fuimaono Tafua said his heavily European-weighted squad was the best available.

“We are very happy with the passion and commitment from our players at the trials,” Fuimaono said.

“The quality and competitiveness for positions actually made it very hard to select our final squad but in the end we have what we feel is the best team.”

Manu Samoa squad:

Forwards: Andrew Williams (Marist Samoa), Mahonri Schwalger (Sale, England), Justin Vaa (Glasgow, Scotland), Census Johnston (Toulouse, France), Ernest Skelton (Queensland Reds, Australia), Fosi Palaamo (Leeds, England), Filipo Levi (Newcastle Falcons, England), Iosefa Tekori (Castres, France), Jonathan Faamatuainu (Bath, England), Daniel Leo (Wasps, England), Misioka Timoteo (Vaiala, Samoa), Ofisa Treviranus (Malie Sharks, Samoa), William Brame (Manly, Australia), Henry Tuilagi (Perpignan, France), George Stowers (Upolu, Samoa)

Backs: Junior Poluleuligaga (Bay of Plenty, NZL), Notise Tauafao (Counties Manukau, NZL), Angelo Malifa (NYAC, USA), Ki Anufe (Marist, Samoa), Seilala Mapusua (London Irish, England), Eliota Fuimaono (Gloucester, England), Henry Faafili (Leeds, England), Gavin Williams (Dax, France), Alesana Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers, England), Esera Lauina (Vaivase, Samoa), Reupena Levasa (Vailele, Samoa), Lolo Lui (Moataa, Samoa), Uale Mai (Marist, Samoa).


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