31 May 2017

Samoa Under 20s face daunting start

2:51 pm on 31 May 2017

The Samoa Under 20s face a daunting first-up clash against title holders England at the World Rugby Under 20 Championship.

The Baby Manu are back in the top flight after winning last year's second tier Under 20 trophy.

Head coach Mahonri Schwalger has been in charge only a few weeks following the resignation of Junior Leota.

Mahonri Schwalger last played for Samoa at the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Samoa Under 20s coach and former Manu Samoa captain Mahonri Schwalger. Photo: AFP

He said it would be great for the development of Samoan Rugby to be playing against the best in the world.

"We're not taking any game easy so we're playing England first and then Australia so it's not really a easy pool to be in," he said.

"But I guess the boys are pretty excited about it and especially England and Australia - you don't have to find any motivation to get these guys up to play the game."

"We've still got a few things to work on here in the islands. We've got to make sure that we get our competition right and have more island players (in the squad)," Schwalger said.

"I think when you look at it for the Under 20s is we're all part of the development in building guys for the main team, the Manu Samoa team.

"But I guess it's huge for us as well: we can see where the level we're at (is) and where we're supposed to be every year and where we're supposed to have the level to compete with the top teams in the world."

Samoa captain Ivan Fepuleai with his Pool A counterparts at the World Rugby U20 Championship.

Samoa captain Ivan Fepuleai with his Pool A counterparts at the World Rugby U20 Championship. Photo: Gogita Bukhaidze / World Rugby

Samoa Rugby Director of Coaching Namulauulu Alama Ieremia said after a bit of a disrupted build up he was keen to see how Samoa perform on the world stage.

"Definitely keen to see how some of those young boys come through," he said.

"As you could see if you perform well you never know when you get your opportunities: we've still got D'Angelo Leuila, who was a bit of a star for us at the end of year tour last year, who's still eligible for the 20s but yet he's now playing test rugby.

"So for tier two nations especially there's an opportunity there for our Under 20s but they've got to get through this tournament first and foremost.

"There's a lot of pressure for them to stay up in the tier one competition and obviously with Mahonri Schwalger stepping into the reins he will definitely be tested so it will be interesting to see how they respond."

Samoa will also face Australia and Wales in the pool stage over the coming fortnight.