Manu Samoa’s 31-man squad for RWC 2015 features all three Pisi brothers - Tusiata, Ken and George (main picture) – as well as some other notable inclusions.
Leicester Tigers prop Logovii Mulipola is one of 11 English-based players to be selected, and there is a return for Hurricanes midfielder Rey Lee-Lo who, like the Pisis, were not part of the recent squad that finished second to Fiji at the World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup.
Mulipola has not appeared for his country for over a year while the last of Lee-Lo’s two caps came against England on the 2014 November tour.
The Pacific Nations Cup did present an opportunity for other players to put their hand up for selection, though. Locally based trio, prop Jake Grey, scrum-half Vavao Afemai and goal-kicking fly-half Patrick Faapale, all did enough in North America to warrant inclusion despite stiff competition from professional players.
Betham said that the tournament had been invaluable from a Rugby World Cup point of view, even if the title eluded them.
“Of course we are disappointed we didn’t get the result we wanted but if we consider the bigger picture, we know the task was to test our depth and to give players an opportunity to rise to the occasion.
“Some obviously did, and some weren’t quite strong enough to unseat the established professional players in their positions.
"We have had some late challenges with injuries ruling out valuable players such as James Johnston (leg), Pele Cowley (shoulder) and David Lemi (back)."
“We have had some late challenges with injuries ruling out valuable players such as James Johnston (leg), Pele Cowley (shoulder) and David Lemi (back).
“This has been an incredibly difficult selection process as we have had to leave behind some excellent players, including those who performed well at PNC. But we cannot take everyone, and there is comfort is knowing that we have depth should we need to call on it," he added.
“I am particularly pleased for the locally based players as this selection rewards their hard work, determination and focus.
“Congratulations to all players who have been selected. I know they will represent our country with much pride and dignity.”
Dreams of a nation
Team manager Namulauulu Sami Leota welcomed the announcement by Samoa’s Prime Minister and Chairman of the Samoan Rugby Union, Tuilaepa Lupesoleai Fatialofa Sailele Malielegaoi.
“We are very excited to unveil our squad today. From here we now prepare to take our squad to England early for two pre-World Cup fixtures against the Barbarians and Wasps.
“We know that the hopes and dreams of all our Samoan people are in this team, and that is a heavy burden, but one made so much easier to bear knowing that the people of Samoa and Samoans all around the world are firmly behind this team.
“Every time we travel offshore, we are touched by the love and the support this team attracts, so I want to reassure everyone that our hopes and our dreams are the same. We dare to dream the unthinkable.”
The Manu Samoa squad assembles on Friday evening and will travel to Savii for team building and community engagement events.
Samoa RWC 2015 squad:
Forwards: Viliamu Afatia, Jake Grey, Logovii Mulipola, Anthony Perenise, Sakaria Taulafo, Wayne Ole Avei, Ma'atulimanu Leiataua, Motu Matu'u, Faatiga Lemalu, Teofilo Paulo, Kane Thompson, Iosefa (Joe) Tekori, Maurie Faasavalu, Alafoti Faosiliva, TJ Ioane, Jack Lam, Vavae Tuilagi, Ofisa Treviranus (captain).
Backs: Vavao Afemai, Kahn Fotualii, Patrick Fa'apale, Tusiata Pisi, Mike Stanley, Rey Lee-Lo, Johnny Leota, George Pisi, Paul Perez, Fa'atoina Autagavaia, Ken Pisi, Tim Nanai-Williams, Alesana Tuilagi (vice-captain).