The Samoan XV That Could Have Been
Samoa enter their upcoming tour of Europe off the back of a revolution in form and certainly their best string of results against top tier nations since the game turned professional.
Australia, Wales and Scotland have all lost to the Islanders in the last two seasons and this Saturday’s game against Ireland (who are ranked below Samoa) will be their latest challenge.
Professionalism however has purged Samoa of some of the top talents in the world, losing players to Australia and New Zealand in search of higher wages and superior playing standards.
So what would a 2013 Samoan XV look like if they had a recruiting system that matched the southern hemisphere giants? The Samoan Granny Rule.
1. Census Johnston
Best known for his stint at Saracens, the 21 stone prop now plays for Toulouse and has been a stalwart for Samoa since making his test debut in 2005.
2. Kevin Mealamu (108 New Zealand caps)
Mealamu is the second most capped hooker of all time and a 2011 World Cup winner. His brother Luke has previously represented Samoa.
3. John Afoa (36 New Zealand caps)
The Ulster prop was a World Cup winner in 2011 and is regarded as one of the best props in world rugby.
4. Daniel Leo
The former Wasps second row has been a major component of Samoa’s regeneration, featuring in last season’s victory over Wales at the Millenium Stadium.
5. Filo Paulo
Filo has played the majority of his career in New Zealand however he declared himself for Samoa in 2012, the same year he joined Cardiff Blues.
6. Jerome Kaino (49 New Zealand caps)
Jerome is one of the world’s premier backrows and played in every game in New Zealand’s 2011 World Cup campaign.
7. Chris Masoe (20 New Zealand caps)
Normally featuring at Number 8, Chris joined Toulon in 2012 and started his club’s successful 2013 Heineken Cup final win.
8. Jerry Collins (48 New Zealand caps)
Born in Samoa’s capital city Apia, Collins’s blonde hair makes him one of the most recognisable players in world rugby and at 6 ft 3 and 17 stone he would have fit into Samoa’s backrow very well.
9. Kahn Fotuali’i
Northamton’s latest recruit is one of Samoa’s key players and is widely considered to be among the best scrum halves in the game today.
10. Tusi Pisi
The wonderfully named out half has established himself as the first choice 10 for Samoa and his goal kicking will be vitally important to his country if they wish to topple Ireland at the weekend
11. Julien Savea (18 New Zealand caps)
The twenty three year old wing has scored 16 tries in 18 tests and is quickly becoming one of the best outside backs in rugby.
12. Sonny Bill Williams (19 New Zealand caps)
The poster boy of both rugby union and league in New Zealand qualifies for Samoa though his father and would surely have elevated the sport to enormous heights had he opted for the blue jersey.
13. Manu Samoa Tuilagi (21 England caps, 1 Lions cap)
The Tuilagi name is synonymous with Samoan rugby with five of the family playing at international level. Manu chose England over his homeland, making his debut in 2011 and was selected for the Lions tour of Australia last summer.
14. Ma’a Nonu (85 New Zealand caps)
The crash ball specialist is fast approaching 100 All Black caps and has been closely compared to fellow Samoan New Zealander Tana Umaga.
15. Digby Ione (35 Australia caps)
Having been born in New Zealand and moving to Australia as a child, his speed and quickness add an extra dimension to the typical Samoan strength game had he chosen to play his rugby in the tropics.