Tough Samoa team named to face All Blacks

Samoan players will make it a priority to stay calm in the white-hot atmosphere of Wednesday’s historic Test against the All Blacks.

A mature team was deliberately named on Monday by coach Stephen Betham for the clash in Apia, the first time the All Blacks have played a Test in the Pacific islands.

Chiefs fullback Tim Nanai-Williams will make his Test debut and the only other uncapped player is Faialaga Afamasaga as backline reserve cover. Afamasaga is the only Samoan-based player in a team mostly comprising European-based professionals.

Betham said a player leadership group created for the Test had stressed the need to not get carried away, especially early on when Apia Park is expected to be a sea of noise.

“They spoke about controlling the aggression. Because if we don’t control that aggression, the game can fly off the handle,” Betham said.

“Pressure is already there this week and the boys know that it will be even more when we go on the park but it’s something that we’ve sat down and talked about.”

The only players not based in Europe are Nanai-Williams, South African-domiciled centre Paul Perez, veteran Japanese club first five-eighth Tusi Pisi and 22-year-old reserve halfback Pele Cowley, who plays club rugby for Pukekohe.

London Irish No.8 Ofisa Treviranus is captain and one of eight starting players to have notched more than 20 caps – a lot for Samoa, who average three-four Tests a year.

The most experienced player is 50-Test Toulouse prop Census Johnston, who announced his retirement earlier this year but has agreed to return for their World Cup campaign.

Betham says the midfield was difficult to select because of the unavailability of previous servants George Pisi, Alapati Leiua and Rey Lee-Lo.

Perez plays on the wing for the Natal Sharks but fills a gap at centre, where he used to play for Taranaki.

There was a fierce battle for loose forward spots. World Cup stand-out Maurie Faasavalu is on the bench, usurped by Treviranus, former Hurricane Jack Lam and surprise blindside flanker choice Alafoti Faosiliva, who plays for English club Bath.

SAMOA:

Tim Nanai-Williams, Alofa Alofa, Paul Perez, Johnny Leota, Alesana Tuilagi, Tusi Pisi, Kahn Fotualii, Ofisa Treviranus (capt), Jack Lam, Alafoti Faosiliva, Kane Thompson, Teofilo Paulo, Census Johnston, Ole Avei, Sakaria Taulafo. Reserves: Ma’atulimanu Leiataua, Viliamu Afatia, Anthony Perenise, Joe Tekori, Maurie Faasavalu, Pele Cowley, Faialaga Afamasaga, Ken Pisi.

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