Monday 19 February 2018

Tony Ward: Samoan bloodline offers glimpse into frightening potential

John Afoa, Ulster
John Afoa, Ulster
Tony Ward

Tony Ward

On this, their fifth visit to Dublin since they first came to Ireland back in 1988, it's worth offering a reminder of just how strong Samoa are likely to be – lest we forget that 40-25 hammering they dished out to us in 1996.

Some of the biggest names in the history of the game are of Samoan or part-Samoan descent – and the modern-day list reads like a who's who of rugby.

There are the Australians Digby Ioane, Joe Tomane and Christian Lealiifano, Manu Tuilagi with England, not to mention an incredible connection with the mighty All Blacks.

It's the New Zealand connection that really drives the message home. Take your pick from Ulster's John Afoa, Munster's Christian Cullen and Casey Laulala, Jerry Collins, Sonny Bill Williams, Graeme and Stephen Bachop, Liam Messam, Andrew Blowers, Olo Brown, Frank Bunce, Michael Jones, Josh Kronfeld, Connacht's Pat Lam, Mils Muliaina, Ma'a Nonu, Rodney So'oialo, Joe Stanley, Va'aiga Tuigamala, Tana Umaga, Victor Vito and Bryan Williams.

There are another 20 names that could be added to that All Black list – and it all poses the question that, with better financial resources and the professional infrastructure in place, just how good could today's opponents become?

I'll leave you to select your own all-time team from that lot, but just bear in mind when they run out later today the bloodline and rugby pedigree the Manu Samoans represent.

Is it any wonder Ireland forwards coach John Plumtree has had difficulty sleeping of late? Expect a mighty collision.

Irish Independent

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