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Fotuali’i to lead strong Samoan team against Ireland

The Northampton Saints live-wire captains Stephan Betham’s starting XV.

Fotuali'i is the star of the Samoa team and now the captain.
Fotuali'i is the star of the Samoa team and now the captain.
Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie

NORTHAMPTON SAINTS SCRUM-HALF Kahn Fotuali’i has been named captain of the Samoa team to face Ireland in Dublin on Saturday.

Regular squad captain David Lemi is carrying a shoulder injury at present and normal back-up skipper Paul Williams, who plays his club rugby with Stade Français, is also sidelined for Saturday’s game. That means Fotuali’i assumes the role of leadership in a strong Samoan XV.

Tighthead prop Census Johnston has also been ruled out for Stephen Betham’s men, joined by Harlequins flanker Maurie Fa’asavalu and Perpignan second row Daniel Leo. The loss of Toulouse man Johnston is offset by the inclusion of the Leicester Tigers giant Logovi’i Mulipola in the number three shirt.

Losing Leo is certainly a blow for Betham, particularly at the line-out. In his place, the inexperienced Fa’atiga Lemalu is given the nod to start, with Toulouse powerhouse Joe Tekori restricted to substitute role. Samoa’s back row is at full strength though, with openside Jack Lam a real threat at the breakdown.

Tusi Pisi will attempt to create attacking chances for Samoa with his footwork and breaking ability from out-half, with a strong centre partnership of Johnny Leota (Sale Sharks) and George Pisi (Northampton) outside him.

The back three is inexperienced at this level but Hurricanes winger Alapati Leiua is a superb attacking player and offers real power and pace on the right wing. Fullback Fa’atoina Autagavaia is a sevens specialist who counter-attacks dangerously, while left wing Brando Va’aulu formerly played four seasons of Super Rugby with the Queensland Reds.

Mulipola is joined in the front row by Stade Français loosehead Sakaria Taulafo, who has been instrumental in Samoa’s success over the last year. Bordeaux hooker Ole Avei has been preferred to Clermont man Ti’i Paulo in the number two short, and he brings energy and offloading ability to Betham’s team.

Despite the loss of five players through injury, this Samoan team cannot be underestimated. The IRFU have confirmed that there will be a minute’s silence before the game in honour of the legendary Samoan prop Peter Fatialofa, who died on Tuesday.

Betham’s men will be playing with extra fire in their bellies, determined to pay tribute to ‘Fats’ with a win against Ireland.

Samoa (v Ireland): Fa’atoina Autagavaia; Alapati Leiua, George Pisi, Johnny Leota, Brando Va’aulu; Tusi Pisi, Kahn Fotuali’i; Sakaria Taulafo, Ole Avei, Logovi’i Mulipola; Fa’atiga Lemalu, Filo Paulo; Ofisa Treviranus, Jack Lam, Taiasina Tuifu’a.

Replacements: Ti’i Paulo, Viliamu Afatia, James Johnston, Joe Tekori, Alafoti Faosiliva, Jeremy Su’a, Isaia Tuifua, Fautua Otto.

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Murray Kinsella

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