Scrum Sevens
The Samoan mission
October 14, 2009

As Samoa struggles to recover from last month's devastating Tsunami, a disaster that has touched the rugby community, we take a look back at some of the greatest products of a proud rugby heartland.

Efforts in New Zealand, Australia, England, France and Wales have all been mounted in support of the relief programme, testament to the skill, passion and popularity of Samoa among the rugby public.

Brian Lima - 66 caps 1991-2007

Not only is the man in possession of the best nickname in rugby ('The Chiropractor'), Brian Lima is a true legend of the international game. The only player to appear at five Rugby World Cups, he made his bow against Wales in Cardiff at the 1991 tournament. Starting on the wing at a freezing Arms Park, Lima was part of one of the greatest upsets of all time as the home side were dispatched 16-13 in front of 45,000 disbelieving fans.

Famed for his fearsome tackling, Lima struck fear in to the hearts of opponents whether on the wing or crashing it up in the centre. Rumours that Springbok fly-half Derick Hougaard still checks behind doors in fear of another meeting with 'The Chiropractor' could not be confirmed.

His career ended under a disciplinary cloud at the 2007 World Cup following a ban for a dangerous tackle on England's Jonny Wilkinson, but his triumphant send-off following the Samoans' final Pool game against the USA, leading several celebratory Siva Taus before being carried aloft by his team-mates, was testament to the impact he made on the sport.

Semo Sititi - 63 caps 1999-2009

Behind only Lima in the appearances stakes, Sititi is part of the furniture. He can also count a defeat of Wales at a World Cup, this time a 38-31 thriller at the Millennium Stadium in 1999, among his career highlights and has ably pitched in at flanker and No.8 for the national team while also being an excellent Sevens practitioner.

Sititi stepped in to the leadership void left by the great Pat Lam in 2000, while broadening his horizons first with a Super 12 contract at the Hurricanes and then with a six year stint in British rugby that encompassed time with Cardiff, Borders and Newcastle.

At his second World Cup, in Australia in 2003, Sititi produced the finest moment on a memorable highlight reel by rounding off a superb team score against England, soon to be crowned as champions.

Michael Jones - One cap 1986

Yes, yes, one cap does not a hero make. One of several high-profile players to have worn the blue of Samoa and All Black, the shadow cast by Michael Jones across world rugby is a long one. The openside of opensides, his athleticism, skills and passion remain unmatched.

He made his international debut against Wales in Apia in 1986, his only appearance for Samoa before a 55-Test career with the All Blacks which encompassed a Rugby World Cup-winners' medal at the inaugural tournament in 1987.

Jones rekindled his relationship with Samoa in 2004, taking over the coaching reins following the departure of John Boe. His passion was not enough of a spur however, and he endured a career low at the 2007 World Cup, where his side were defeated by Tonga for the first time in seven years. Still, as careers go, he's got nothing to be ashamed of.

Seilala Mapusua - 11 caps 2004-2009

Mapusua's limited international career is testament to the struggles faced by Samoa and the other Pacific Islands, with a lack of funding and logistical problems robbing the side of one of the most talented midfielders around. Spearheading London Irish's expressive play in the Guinness Premiership, Mapusua is one of the most popular faces in the English league, winning Players' Player of the Season in 2009.

His bread and butter is the Premiership, meaning that availability for international fixtures is a problem. The problem was perfectly exemplified in 2008, when a below-strength Samoan side was torn apart 101-14 by the full All Blacks side in New Plymouth. Mapusua, along with team-mates Sailosi Tagicakibau, Elvis Seveali'i , Jonny Faamatuainu et al, was stuck up north.

"There is a huge gulf between ourselves and the richer teams when it comes to preparation. When we play Wales in November, we'll get together on the Sunday before the match, which is on the Friday night," he said in a recent interview with The Independent. "Wales will have been together for almost three weeks by then. What can we do? We've never known anything different, so we'll play as we usually play and hope to stay competitive. We'll be committed and enthusiastic and valiant, but there will be no cohesion. In Test rugby, familiarity and spirit takes you only so far."

Va'aiga 'Inga' Tuigamala - 23 caps 1996-2001

A cross-code legend, 'Inga the Winger' enjoyed a varied and wildly successful career at the top of the sport. By the time of his switch to rugby league with Wigan in 1993, he'd won 19 Test caps for the All Blacks, beginning at the 1991 Rugby World Cup.

Weighing in at a healthy 243lbs, Tuigamala was an early prototype for Jonah Lomu's wrecking-ball style. His switch to rugby league brought an end to his All Black career, and a switch to the centre, before a return to union following the switch to professionalism.

Having been born in Faleasiu, Tuigamala went on to win 23 Samoa caps while winning trophies and plaudits in the colours of Wasps and Newcastle. Following his retirement he used his skill at, ahem, burying opponents to open a funeral directors called Tuigamala and Sons.

Pat Lam - 34 caps 1991-1999

Lam, born in Auckland, never secured a Test cap for the All Blacks, playing only a single midweek game in 1991. In the blue of Samoa he became an inspirational leader however, bringing a hard edge honed playing provincial rugby in New Zealand.

His 34 caps saw appearances at two World Cups, and in 1999 he scored a try in the upset of Wales, coached at the time by his Auckland mentor Graham Henry. Following the tournament he retired from the international stage, but in club colours he continued to excel.

His Northampton side lifted the 2000 Heineken Cup before he hung up his boots, eventually graduating to a coaching role with Auckland and the Blues Super 14 franchise.

Freddie, Henry, Alesana and Andy - The Tuilagi boys - 55 caps (total)

Spare some thought for the parents. Four brothers, four Samoan internationals and some big mouths to feed. Following in the footsteps of eldest brother Freddie, who played at the 1995 World Cup, the younger Tuilagi's have all made an impact, literally, on European rugby.

A long association with Leicester has made the Tuilagi name a familiar one, with their power and pace a constant threat. Alesana has become a cult figure at the Tigers with his bustling physicality, while Henry anchors the scrum of French champions Perpignan to muscular effect. Andy, the baby of the bunch, is a fixture of the Sale backline and has already notched more international caps than Henry or Freddie.


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