11 Aug 2017

Sport: Lack of fitness, disrespect for jersey blamed for Manu Samoa failures

12:54 pm on 11 August 2017

A lack of fitness and disrespect for the jersey are among the reasons cited for Manu Samoa's failed international campaign, which led to the resignation of head coach Alama Ieremia.

The findings are highlighted in a report by a review committee that was appointed by the Samoa Rugby Union Board after the team lost mid-year tests against New Zealand, Wales, Tonga and Fiji and failed to secure automatic qualification for the 2019 World Cup.

The report said fitness was identified as a key and ongoing concern with players arriving in camp in poor condition and, despite measures that cost the Union a lot of money, it was "getting worse".

It found the departure of some players midway through the campaign, because of personal reasons and pressures from their clubs, greatly disrupted the team's preparation and showed a level of disrespect for the team, coaches and the Manu jersey.

"Two of these players that left was due to family and personal reasons, whilst the other two stated pressures from their clubs. One had left without any communication with team management," stated the report.

"This is understood to have never happened before in any Manu Samoa campaign and we believe it shows a level of disrespect, pride and priority from these players to the Head Coach and his management, the players, the people and country they represent."

Manu Samoa coach Alama Ieremia.

Former Manu Samoa head coach Alama Ieremia. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The review concluded the SRU had provided the Manu Samoa team with everything required of an international team despite the constraints on resources, but "the truth is the recent campaigns were a failure" and recommended a change in leadership starting with the head coach, who managed just two wins from his 10 internationals in charge.

"There is no doubt that Manu Samoa not making the 2019 Rugby World Cup will become the biggest upset and set back to Samoa Rugby and all its works and investments in the past years," cited the report.

"The committee feels that the HC had has enough time to make improvement in the team but despite all the support given, the team had reached an all-time low and the committee is not confident that he is able to take the team any further."

The committee, chaired by Masoe Norman Wetzell and including Leituala Ben Matalavea, former SRU chief executive Su'a Peter Schuster, former Manu Samoa team manager Namulauulu Sami Leota and Mike McGovern from World Rugby, also criticised Ieremia for ignoring a selection panel appointed by the SRU Board to assist in picking the national team.

It concluded there was a lot of talented players that had come into the Manu team over the past two years with the ability to make the team "a force to be reckoned with in the near future".

Some players were "possibly getting past their peak to perform at this level and will need to phased out" while the report also highlighted a "notable absence of any local based players in the team".

Manu Samoa players, including captain Kahn Fotuali'i (2L), react after their 78-0 thrashing by the All Blacks.

Manu Samoa failed to win a game in their mid-year test window. Photo: PHOTOSPORT