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Sport

Pasifika team ideal for local development - Samoa coach

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Samoa coach Seilala Mapusua is crossing his fingers that talk of a Pasifika team in Super Rugby comes to fruition as he says it would enhance local player development and improve the national team’s performances.

FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - South Africa v Samoa IRB Rugby World Cup 2011 Pool D - North Harbour Stadium, North Shore, New Zealand - 30/9/11. Samoa's Seilala Mapusua (C) is tackled by South Africa's Francois Steyn (R) and Schalk Burger (L). Mandatory Credit: Action Images /Jason O'Brien. Livepic

New Zealand Rugby have said they were keen for a Pasifika side to join a new Super Rugby competition but are yet to make any concrete decision on where the team would be based or whether it would be run by national unions or a private group.

Mapusua, who was appointed earlier this month, told Reuters this week that one of his key messages to the selection panel was to increase the local player pool and focus on improving pathways to the national team.

“Development on the island is massive for me,” he said from Dunedin. “That’s a big part of the foundation of the national team.

“We can’t have a professional competition in Samoa, we have to look outside (so) having Samoan players in a professional competition, as close to home as they can be is massive in terms of preparation and improving the national side.

“They will be playing in one of the toughest, if not the toughest, competition in the world.”

The 40-year-old former midfield back is the fourth head coach in the last four years at Samoa, who struggled to consistently field a full-strength side in the last World Cup cycle and ended up having to beat Germany to qualify.

They only beat Russia at the global showpiece in Japan and were a far cry from the level of performances that have seen them beat Tier One nations like Wales, Australia and Scotland.

To get to the 2023 Rugby World Cup, Samoa must beat Tonga in a two-legged playoff for the fourth Oceania spot -- New Zealand, Australia and Fiji have already qualified -- or face another qualifier against an Asian side.

“We don’t want to go through the (qualifier) again,” he said, adding that his first test in charge of the team would not likely come before next year’s Pacific Nations Cup due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“I’m going to pick the best Samoans available to me, regardless of where they are.”

While Samoa have struggled due to a lack of financial resources and infrastructure, Mapusua said there was no shortage of experience to tap into.

“The one resource we do have is human resources,” he said.

“I will definitely be calling in a lot of favours. Both locally and internationally. I will be using all the resources I can get my hands on.”

Editing by Peter Rutherford

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