Manu Samoa coach Seilala Mapusua believes New Zealand rugby’s selection of Moana Pasifika’s Super Rugby Pacific center Levi Aumua proves the All Blacks can still cherry-pick players who are qualified for Islands nations.
Mapusua is convinced Aumua’s selection in the All Blacks XV squad “diminishes the purpose” of the Moana Pasifika franchise. Aumua is eligible for Manu Samoa, Fiji, the All Blacks and Australia.
Aumua, 28, was selected for the All Blacks XV for two games against Ireland A and the Barbarians in November. Mapusua, who is preparing Samoa for their November tests with Italy, Georgia and Romania, ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup in France, told Stuff: “We waited a long time for a team like Moana Pasifika to be established. I’d like to think it’s our team but this is a not so gentle reminder that yes we can have our team but the best players will still get picked up by, in this case, New Zealand.
“What Moana Pasifika are saying is not untrue but at the same time all it takes is one. If we are looking at things in principle, it should be 100% (eligibility for the Pacific Islands teams). The establishment of this team (Moana) was to benefit Samoa, Tonga and Fiji.
“We looked at Moana Pasifika as our team. It is frustrating seeing guys like Levi being picked up by the All Blacks. Obviously it sends a message to all the other midfielders in the five (New Zealand) franchises. Frustrating is a nice way to put it. “
NZ Rugby granted the license for Moana Pasifika to participate in Super Rugby Pacific, and it is understood that the All Blacks can select up to three players from the franchise. While the All Blacks XV is not a “capture” team, meaning Aumua could still play for Samoa or Fiji, Mapusua says it signals the center is on New Zealand’s radar and could be elevated to the senior squad.
Mapusua said. “While everyone is saying it’s not a capped team it clearly shows where the intention is and where players are being viewed.
“There’s a chance that Levi could go on and be a key player for the All Blacks and go to the World Cup. There’s also a very real chance that he might not.”
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