Wednesday, March 13, 2013

2013 with an eye to 2015 - USA´s Samu Manoa

Photo: Zimbio
It can be tough to put in strong performances on a regular basis but one such player that has proved very capable of doing so is USA Eagles secondrower Samu Manoa. The 28 year old from Concord, California has been an outstanding performer in England for Aviva Premiership side the Northampton Saints since his arrival at the club in 2011. Manoa joined the club on his first ever professional contract and quickly established himself in the starting lineup. So far he has played thirty-five times for the Saints and there is a lot more yet to come. He has started in both the secondrow and backrow and had such a strong impact that he was named in the Aviva Premiership Dream Team for the 2011-2012 season. He joined Argentina´s Horacio Agulla to give the Americas two players in the selection. 

Manoa joined the club for the 2011-2012 season and in doing so he did did not feature at the World Cup. The controversy of the signing saw such that despite Manoa looking certain to have a starting place in the USA´s World Cup team he missed out altogether. The club wanted him only on the condition that he miss the tournament. Since then similarities have occured such as Manoa not featuring for the USA Eagles in the June or November internationals in 2012. As such the Californian continues to only have one test cap to his name - his debut against Georgia in 2010. His non-involvement in November was extremely concerning as he had been said to be suffering a minor shoulder injury and thus did not make the USA squad. Northampton, however, fielded him for club action in November. Simply put, Northampton cheated to have the American play for them and not his country in November.  

To better understand the lack of test appearances for Manoa it must be noted that he is a husband and a father of three children. Given the slender pickings for North American´s in professional rugby making the choice of playing club rugby rather than in the test arena can appear logical. After all, by playing for the USA Manoa would not be paid, unlike appearing for the Northampton Saints. The nature of the controversy has not gone unnoticed by the IRB. The global governing body of rugby recently reaffirmed the importance of players being released for international duty under IRB Regulation 9. In a meeting last week representatives of a host of parties, including Premiership Rubgy met to discuss the issue of player release and the English authority agreed to the requests to have the best players per nation available for international duty. As such Manoa should certainly return to play test rugby this year and be a probable starting player for Rugby World Cup 2015.

Tall and strong, Manoa has the ideal build for an international secondrower. He also has the skills and has made a name for himself as an outstanding defender and ball carrier. Manoa also has an impressive resumé as a domestic rugby player. He is a national champion having been a part of the San Francisco Golden Gate rugby team that won the Rugby Super League in 2009. He spent a long time at the club, playing there from 2003-2010. His talents were picked up by USA Rugby as he was named in the USA´s A team (at times known as the USA Select XV) in 2009 and 2010 which saw him play in the Americas Rugby Championship. Should Manoa be a Rugby World Cup player it will be as a Saint because he signed a three year deal with Northampton in 2012. Together with Louis Stanfill and Scott LaValla the USA would be very well placed in the secondrow position.  

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