Sport: Players queuing up for Manu Samoa 2019 campaign

Manu Samoa coach Steve Jackson says he‘s already receiving messages from players desperate to be involved with the team in 2019.

The Manu ended their November tour on a winning note against Spain, following narrow defeats against the United States and Georgia.

Jack Lam (2R) captained Samoa during November. Photo: Facebook/Georgian Rugby

Steve Jackson was only appointed in October and says, while they didn‘t get the results in the first two games, a strong platform has been established heading into a Rugby World Cup year.

“The culture and environment piece is critical for any team because if you can get that right a lot of the stuff will flow on after…we had a team that gelled really well and we‘re a really tight-knit group and moving forward players can be honest and I think they trust and respect the coaching group and the management group as likewise do we with the players,” said Steve Jackson.

Steve Jackson. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Steve Jackson said the coaching staff have a list of about 70 players eligible for Samoa they are actively monitoring and he‘s already receiving messages from players outside the current group that want to be involved next year.

“There‘s lots of speculation around other players but we‘re just focusing on the guys that we know that are available and eligible at the moment. One of the other things we wanted to achieve was players go back from that tour and talk to the players that weren‘t on tour and say: “Look, hey, it was a great experience and you‘ll want to be involved in this group,” Steve Jackson said.

“That‘s sort of happened over the last 48 hours – I‘ve had some players email me and ask me about being available and putting their hand up for next year so that was one of the things we wanted to do when we left the tour was to make sure that players wanted to come back and be part of it.”

One player who made an immediate impact on tour was Bay of Plenty lock Kane Leaupepe, who established himself in the starting fifteen after earning a late call-up because of injury.

Steve Jackson said the 26 year old made every post a winner.

“I probably can‘t understand why he‘s not playing Super Rugby at the moment and if you were to say put him in the top three of the standout players of the tour then he‘d be right up there. He played every single minute of every single of the three games and he was absolutely outstanding.”

Kane Leaupepe in action for Bay of Plenty. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The former Blues assistant coach also defended his selection of veteran first-five Tusi Pisi, who will be 37 when the World Cup kicks off and has come in for criticism from a number of Samoan fans.

“I know he comes under a bit of fire but look when you‘re in an environment you see what he does around his game awareness and game understanding, how to drive a team – what he offers to the people around him. Words can‘t really express unless you‘re involved and you actually see what he does within a group. He‘s just the ultimate professional. He does everything right.”

Tusi Pisi made his test debut back in 2006. Photo: AFP

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