Former Ospreys scrum half Kahn Fotuali’i, who is currently plying his trade with English club Northampton Saints, has been chosen to captain Samoa for Saturday’s encounter with Ireland at the Aviva Stadium.
Injuries have ruled out some of Samoa’s frontline players, including tour captain David Lemi (shoulder) and Gavin Williams who led them during the summer’s Quadrangular tournament in South Africa.
Head coach Stephen Betham has handed the captaincy to scrum half Kahn Fotuali’i who has good knowledge of the Irish players having spent two years at the Swansea-based Ospreys.
Other notable absentees are Maurie Fa’asavalu, Daniel Leo and Census Johnston, whose place at tighthead prop has gone to Leicester’s Logovi’i Mulipola.
Blindside flanker Ofisa Treviranus, who spent a season with Connacht, is the most capped player in the Samoa starting line-up with 25 appearances. His younger brother Alapati Leiua is set to win his fourth cap on the right wing.
Taranaki’s tough-tackling centre Isaia Tu’ifua is standing by to make his debut, while the majority of the Samoan squad play their club rugby in either the English Premiership or French Top 14 – George Pisi, Johnny Leota, Ti’i Paulo and Iosefa Tekori being some of the most recognisable names.
Of the matchday squad from the 20-10 loss to Ireland in Dublin in November 2010, there are only five survivors in this weekend’s side – George Pisi, Fotuali’i, prop Sakaria Taulafo, Treviranus and Tekori.
Previewing Saturday’s Test at the Aviva Stadium, Fotuali’i said: “It’s a great challenge to take on Ireland and an exciting one. That progression we’ve talked about has to step up again this weekend.
“We fight for results and victories. Years in the past certain wins might have been viewed by some as shocks, and maybe even Samoa saw them like that too.
“But it’s not that way anymore. You can see that with the calibre of players declaring for Samoa. Players who are eligible for other countries are now making themselves available more and more for Samoa.
“As the whole Samoan set-up becomes more professional, more and more players will start making themselves available. Players want international rugby to be a step up from club rugby, and we’re getting to that point with Samoa now.
“Already our focus is on preparing for the 2015 Rugby World Cup, we’ve got a good structure in place for how to move the team forward.
“There’s a good core of players, and hopefully whoever makes that squad will have experience of two or three years at least by then.
“I believe Samoa can make an impact on the latter stages of that tournament, provided we keep improving and progressing from here on in.”
Meanwhile, there will be a minute’s silence before kick-off on Saturday to honour one of the great figures of Samoan rugby, Papali’itele Peter Fatialofa, who sadly passed away earlier this week aged 54.
Captain and loosehead prop for Samoa at the 1991 Rugby World Cup, Fatialofa, who was affectionately known as ‘Fats’, played 34 times for his country – he made his debut against Ireland at Lansdowne Road in October 1988.
He went on to serve as forwards coach for the Samoa senior squad, and was assistant coach for the Under-20s at the 2011 IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy event.
Up to the time of his death, he was coaching the Samoa Women’s squad in preparation for next year’s Women’s Rugby World Cup in France.
SAMOA Team & Replacements (v Ireland, Aviva Stadium, 2013 GUINNESS Series, Saturday, November 9, kick-off 5.45pm):
15. Fa’atoina Autagavaia (Marist St. Joseph’s) 6
14. Alapati Leiua (Hurricanes) 3
13. George Pisi (Northampton Saints) 13
12. Johnny Leota (Sale Sharks) 8
11. Brando Va’aulu (Tokyo Gas) 3
10. Tusi Pisi (Suntory Sungoliath/Hurricanes) 13
9. Kahn Fotuali’i (Northampton Saints) (capt) 14
1. Sakaria Taulafo (Stade Francais) 24
2. Wayne Ole Avei (Bordeaux-Begles) 13
3. Logovi’i Mulipola (Leicester Tigers) 13
4. Fa’atiga Lemalu (Sanix Blues) 7
5. Filo Paulo (Cardiff Blues) 6
6. Ofisa Treviranus (London Irish) 25
7. Jack Lam (Hurricanes) 3
8. Taiasina Tu’ifua (Bordeaux-Begles) 12
16. Ti’i Paulo (Clermont Auvergne) 15
17. Viliamu Afatia (Agen) 2
18. James Johnston (Saracens) 10
19. Iosefa Tekori (Toulouse) 25
20. Alafoti Fa’osiliva (Bath) 12
21. Jeremy Su’a (Worcester Warriors) 11
22. Isaia Tu’ifua (Taranaki) *
23. Fautua Otto (Bristol) 7
* Denotes uncapped player