Manu Samoa selects Makos' Taulafo
Tasman Makos prop Zac Taulafo suddenly has the 2011 Rugby World Cup within his reach.
The 26-year-old loosehead has been named in the 26-strong Manu Samoa squad to make a three-match tour of the northern hemisphere following a trial in Auckland last Saturday. And although not Samoa's official World Cup squad, it is still an important step towards Taulafo realising his dream of competing at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.
The tour is scheduled to kick off with an international against Wales at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on November 13, followed by tests against France at Stade de France in Paris on November 21 and against Italy at Stadio del Duca in Ascoli on November 28.
Taulafo's Tasman team-mate, winger Lucky Mulipola, also attended last weekend's trial but missed selection. All but 10 of the squad are based in Britain.
He leaves for Wellington tomorrow to link up with the New Zealand-based players before heading overseas.
At 1.83m tall and weighing 118kg, Taulafo was a first choice selection for Tasman during this season's Air New Zealand Cup campaign where his impressive scrummaging caught the eye of Samoa's assistant coach Peter Fatialofa. The former Manu Samoa captain contacted Taulafo about three weeks before the end of the season and invited him to the trial. Samoan-based Titimaea Tafua will coach the side, with Fatialofa one of his three assistants, including former All Black second five-eighth, John Schuster.
Taulafo admitted that the lure of possible World Cup selection has caught his attention.
"That was in my mind and why I went to the trials – just to get closer to the Samoan [World Cup] side," he said. "I'm really excited."
Taulafo played only the first half of the trial but said his Air NZ Cup form definitely helped in his selection.
"It felt a little bit different up there, it was a different sort of environment. It didn't have the same intensity as the [Tasman] forward pack ... because up there we only got together for Thursday training and then on Saturday had a game."
Originally from the Samoan island of Savai'i, Taulafo's selection completes his transition to full international status after having represented Samoa at both under-18 and under-19 levels in 2001. He moved to Nelson the following year to play for the Nelson College 1st XV and represented Nelson Bays from 2003 to 2005 before winning selection in Tasman's Air New Zealand Cup squad.
Manu Samoa will definitely be at the World Cup after beating Papua New Guinea 73-12 in Port Moresby in July to win 188-19 on aggregate over their two play-off ties and qualify for 2011. Samoa became the second nation to progress through the global qualifying process, following Canada's qualification, also in July, and the 14th to secure their place in the tournament.
Samoa join defending world champions South Africa in pool D along with Wales and Fiji. The pool line-up will be completed by the winner of Africa's qualifying final, between Tunisia and Namibia this month.
The Nelson Mail