Wellington - Samoa's struggling national rugby team are
rebuilding for next year's Rugby World Cup and determined to cement a place
among the game's elite, new coach Steve Jackson said on Tuesday.
The Pacific islanders have slipped to 16th in the world
rankings and needed to win a play-off against minnows Germany to secure a spot
at next year's tournament in Japan.
But New Zealander Jackson, who was appointed last week, said
he was relishing the prospect of revamping the team less than a year out from
rugby's global showpiece.
"We're excited about the Rugby World Cup," he told
"We've got nothing to lose and I'm sure there are teams
that probably doubt us because of the position that we're in. It's a good
starting point for us."
Jackson, a former New Zealand Maori lock who coached at
provincial level and was an assistant at the Auckland Blues, said he wanted
Samoa to be a top 10 rugby nation.
"We've let ourselves slip and most people can see
that," he said.
"So that's where we want to be, to cement ourselves in
that top 10... there's a bit of work to do to get there and we understand
Jackson said he hoped to recruit New Zealand-based Super
Rugby players with Samoan roots who had not quite made the grade for the All
"There's a raft of players in Super Rugby in New
Zealand who, as we all do when we're kids, strive to be an All Black," he
"It's got to be my job to open the door and show them
the opportunity to play in a Rugby World Cup for the other country (Samoa),
whether it be by birth or through their parents."
While he did not name any players, Jackson said he had been
in discussions with some potential candidates "who are starting to swing a
bit" at the thought of using Japan as a shop window.
"It's the opportunity we can give some of these
players," he said.
"It opens up a whole new world for them financially and
in terms of securing themselves and their families after the Rugby World Cup if
they do well."
Samoa has a proud rugby history and has been involved in
some of the great World Cup upsets.
In 1991, playing as Western Samoa, they stunned tournament
co-hosts Wales before a disbelieving crowd at Cardiff Arms Park.
The joke at the time was that the Welsh were glad to have
only been playing Western Samoa, not the whole Pacific nation.
After changing their name to Samoa, the islanders inflicted
more pain on Wales, this time at Cardiff's newly-minted Millennium Stadium at
the 1999 World Cup.
However, since then they have failed to emerge from the pool
stages despite some creditable one-off performances.