Rugby union in Samoa

Last updated
Rugby union in Samoa
Percy Montgomery against Samoa.jpg
Springbok Percy Montgomery faces off Samoans Elvis Seveali'i (21) and Joe Tekori (18).
Governing body Lakapi Samoa
National team(s) Samoa
Nickname(s)Manu Samoa
First played1920
Registered players23,372 [1]
National competitions
Club competitions

Rugby union in Samoa is the country's most popular sport. The national teams in both the standard 15-man game and rugby sevens are consistently competitive against teams from vastly more populous nations.


Governing body

Rugby union is governed by Lakapi Samoa who are also members of the Pacific Islands Rugby Alliance.

Samoa were awarded 'second tier' status by the International Rugby Board which entitles them to funding from the IRB.

Lakapi Samoa was founded in 1924, as the "Apia Rugby Union", and affiliated to the NZRFU in the same year. [2] As the Western Samoa Rugby Football Union, it joined the IRB in 1988. [3] When Western Samoa amended its constitution to change the country's name from Western Samoa to Samoa, the union also changed its name, and dropped the word football to become the Samoa Rugby Union. The union is also a member of the Federation of Oceania Rugby Unions (FORU).


The Marist Brothers brought the game to Samoa in 1920 and The Apia Rugby Union was formed in 1924.

On August 18, 1924 Western Samoa played its first international against Fiji in the capital Apia, the visitors winning 6-0.

The Pacific Tri-Nations series between Tonga, Fiji and Western Samoa was established in 1982.

The Western Samoa Rugby Football Union joined the International Rugby Board in 1988. Western Samoa played in the World Cup for the first time in 1991.

The Pacific Islands Rugby Alliance (PIRA) was set up in 2002 as a basis of co-operation between the Fiji Rugby Union, Samoa Rugby Union and Tonga Rugby Football Union.

In 2006, the Pacific Tri-Nations was replaced by the IRB Pacific 5 Nations which was then renamed the Pacific Nations Cup. The IRB Pacific Rugby Cup started in 2006 with Upolu Samoa and Savaii Samoa representing Samoa.

Rugby was first introduced into Samoa around the turn of the 20th century, when it was still a German colony. It is believed that the first people to introduce it there were missionaries from New Zealand. [3]

The Samoa Sevens team on March 2009. Samoa Sevens Rugby Team.jpg
The Samoa Sevens team on March 2009.

For many years, Western Samoa's international contact was confined to the other South Sea islands of Fiji and Tonga. [3] This is partly because of the isolation of the islands. Their first international was against Fiji, in 1924, and featured a palm tree in the middle of the pitch. [3]

There was also a large amount of contact with New Zealand, where many Samoans would migrate to in the 20th century.

Samoa first came to major international attention in 1986, when they toured Wales. [3] Their test against the Welsh national side produced a result of 32-14. [3] This was also seen as a major turning point as previously there had been a debate as to whether to have an international team at all, as many players had traditionally defected to New Zealand. [3] Samoa rugby's relationship with New Zealand rugby has been a mixed blessing. On the one hand it has allowed Samoa to recruit amongst the massive pool of first and second generation Samoan migrants in New Zealand, but conversely it also meant that for many Samoans, their highest ambition was to win a cap in the All Blacks. [3] Notable Samoan-New Zealander players include Michael Jones and Peter Schuster. [3]

Controversially Samoa was not invited to the first World Cup - although Tonga and Fiji were. [3] This led to a massive campaign to build up a side good enough to qualify for the 1991 Rugby World Cup. [3] They selected Bryan Williams, who had been a winger for the All Blacks to be their coach, and using a mixture of home grown backs such as Brian Lima and Mathew Vaea, and no nonsense New Zealand based forwards such as Mark Birtwistle, Pat Lam Mat Keenan, and Peter Fatialofa, he wielded a disparate group of talented individuals into a side which quickly came to dominate Fiji and Tonga and gain access to the world cup. [3]

Samoa's performance at the 1991 Rugby World Cup was superb, and proved that they were an international force to be reckoned with. After beating Wales in the first game in Cardiff, they beat Argentina. [3] In a nail bitingly close finish, they were beaten 9-3 by Australia, who would later win the tournament. [3] However, they were beaten 28-6 by Scotland. [3]


Rugby union is the most popular sport in Samoa, with 12 provincial unions made up of around 120 clubs and nearly 5,000 senior and twice as many junior players in a country with a population of just under 175,000 people.

Prominent Samoan players include Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu Alesana Tuilagi Freddie Tuilagi, Apollo Perelini, Lome Fa'atau, Lolani Koko, Pat Lam, Brian Lima, current sevens captain Lolo Lui, and two winners of the IRB International Sevens Player of the Year Award in Uale Mai and Mikaele Pesamino.

The huge numbers of players playing professionally abroad can work to Samoa's disadvantage when it comes to team training as it is difficult to get them all together as a squad. But Samoa still manage to remain competitive on the world-stage and are regarded as tough opponents.


National Provincial Championship

This is the second highest level of domestic competition within Samoan rugby union and is a stepping stone for local players into international rugby. Teams play within their respective unions, and then the top teams from each union then contest the finals series held at Apia Park. The Apia West and Apia union teams usually dominate.

Pacific Rugby Cup

The IRB Pacific Rugby Cup started in 2006 and involves representative teams from the three Pacific rugby unions, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa. Samoa, along with Tonga and Fiji, have two sides in the tournament, Savaii Samoa and Upolu Samoa. The aim of the tournament is to improve the quality of rugby in the Pacific Islands.

Representative teams


The national team known as Manu Samoa have competed at every Rugby World Cup since 1991, and have made the quarter finals in 1991, 1995 and 1999.

Samoa also play in the Pacific Nations Cup and the Pacific Tri-Nations. The sport is governed by Lakapi Samoa, were members of the Pacific Islands Rugby Alliance, and thus, also contributed to the international Pacific Islanders rugby union team.

Pacific Tri-Nations

The Pacific Tri-Nations is the series between Tonga, Fiji and Samoa. It has been played since 1982. It was replaced by the Pacific Nations Cup.

Pacific Nations Cup

The Pacific Nations Cup is a competition most often held between six Pacific rim sides; Fiji, Japan, Samoa, Tonga, Canada, and the United States. The inaugural competition in 2006, known as the IRB Pacific 5 Nations, featured New Zealand's "A" side, the Junior All Blacks. In 2007, Australia A joined the original IRB Pacific 5 Nations teams in the new IRB Pacific Nations Cup. The 2008 competition saw the Junior All Blacks replaced by the New Zealand Māori, a developmental side made up entirely of players from the country's indigenous Māori people. In 2009, Australia A did not play and the Junior All Blacks returned. The 2010 competition had no participation from Australia or New Zealand, and was won by Manu Samoa.

National (sevens)

The Samoa national rugby sevens team is one of the 15 "core teams" that compete in every event in the annual World Rugby Sevens Series. Long a solidly competitive side, Samoa Sevens burst into prominence in 2006–07, when they ran traditional favourites New Zealand and Fiji very close for the title. They cemented their status as one of the world's sevens powers by winning the 2009–10 season title.

Samoa rules

Samoa rules is a traditional sport derived from Australian rules football and rugby union that is occasionally played in Samoa. It generally uses rugby pitches, H posts and 15-a-side teams, but is played to Australian rules otherwise.

See also

Related Research Articles

Samoa national rugby union team

The Samoa national rugby union team represents Samoa in men's international rugby union and it is governed by the Samoa Rugby Union. The name Manu Samoa is in honour of a famous Samoan warrior. They perform a traditional Samoan challenge called the siva tau before each game. Samoa Rugby Union were formerly members of the Pacific Islands Rugby Alliance (PIRA) along with Fiji and Tonga. They are ranked 15th in the world.

Fiji national rugby union team

The Fiji national rugby union team represents Fiji in men's international rugby union competes every four years at the Rugby World Cup, and their best performances were the 1987 and 2007 tournaments when they defeated Argentina and Wales respectively to reach the quarterfinals. Fiji also regularly plays test matches during the June and November test windows. Fiji also plays in the Pacific Tri-Nations, and has won the most Pacific Tri-Nations Championships of the three participating teams.

Fiji Rugby Union (FRU) is the governing body for the sport of rugby union in Fiji. It is divided into over 30 provincial unions. The Fiji Rugby Union is a member of the Pacific Islands Rugby Alliance (PIRA), along with Samoa and Tonga. There are approximately 80,000 registered players from a total population of around 950,000.

The Pacific Tri-Nations was the traditional rugby union series between Tonga, Fiji and Samoa. It was established in 1982 with the Samoan team, then known as Western Samoa, winning the tournament. In 2006 it was replaced by the IRB Pacific 5 Nations which was then renamed the Pacific Nations Cup.

Tonga national rugby league team

The Tonga national rugby league team represents Tonga in rugby league football. They are currently the fourth ranked team in the world. The team was formed to compete in the 1986 Pacific Cup, and have competed at five Rugby League World Cups, starting in 1995 and continuing consecutively until the most recent tournament in 2017, where they achieved their best ever result as semi-finalists.

Samoa national rugby league team

The Samoa national rugby league team represents Samoa in rugby league football and has been participating in international competition since 1986. Known as Western Samoa prior to 1997, the team is administered by Rugby League Samoa and are nicknamed Toa Samoa.

Rugby Samoa is the governing body of the sport of rugby union in Samoa. Founded as the Apia Rugby Union in 1924, it was affiliated to the New Zealand Rugby Football Union the same year. It joined the International Rugby Board as the Western Samoa Rugby Football Union in 1988. In 1997, when Western Samoa amended its constitution to change the country's name from Western Samoa to Samoa, the union also changed its name, and dropped the word football to become the Samoa Rugby Union. In November 2020, they changed their name to Lakapi Samoa which is Samoan for Rugby Samoa. They were formerly members of the Pacific Islands Rugby Alliance (PIRA) along with Fiji and Tonga. The union is also a member of the Federation of Oceania Rugby Unions (FORU).

World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup

The Pacific Nations Cup is an international rugby union competition held between three Pacific nations: Fiji, Samoa and Tonga. The 2019 edition of the tournament will also include the national teams of Canada, Japan and United States. First held in 2006, the tournament is intended to strengthen the Tier 2 rugby nations by providing competitive test matches in a tournament format.

World Rugby Pacific Challenge Annual rugby union football tournament

The World Rugby Pacific Challenge, formerly the IRB Pacific Rugby Cup, is an annual rugby union football tournament held in Oceania since 2006. It is contested by national 'A' teams from the Asia-Pacific region. The tournament is run by World Rugby through Oceania Rugby.

The Cook Islands is a third tier rugby union playing nation. They began playing international rugby in the early 1971. Thus far, the Cook Islands have not made an appearance at any of the World Cups.

Namulauulu Alama Ieremia is a New Zealand rugby union coach and former international player for Western Samoa and New Zealand.

Rugby union in Tonga

Rugby union is the national sport of Tonga. Tonga are considered to be a tier 2 rugby nation by the International Rugby Board.

Rugby union in Fiji

Rugby union in Fiji is a popular team sport and is considered to be the national sport of the country. The sport was introduced to Fiji in the 1880s. Fiji is defined as a tier two rugby nation by World Rugby. The national team has competed at the Rugby World Cup and made it as far as the quarter finals. Their sevens team is also noted for their success, and have won the Rugby World Cup Sevens twice and the World Rugby Sevens Series three times.

Sport in Tonga

Rugby union is the national sport in Tonga. Sumo has a following, while football, judo, surfing, volleyball, and cricket have gained popularity in recent years. Rugby league and Australian football are also played.

The IRB Pacific Rugby Cup 2008 was the third edition of the Pacific Rugby Cup competition. First held in 2006, the 2008 edition, like its predecessors, featured 6 representative rugby union football teams; 2 from each of the three Pacific rugby unions - Fiji, Samoa and Tonga.

The 2009 Pacific Nations Cup is a rugby union tournament held between five national sides on the Pacific Rim: Fiji, Japan, Samoa, Tonga and the Junior All Blacks. The New Zealand Māori team that won the tournament last year will no longer take part in this competition because of a decision taken by the New Zealand Rugby Union. Australia A has also decided to pull out due to a similar decision. The inaugural competition was held in 2006. This year the tournament will begin on June 12 and ends on July 3, 2009 and most of the matches will be hosted by Fiji. The awarding of the key international tournament to the Fiji Rugby Union represents a further boost to the continued development of rugby in the region. The two opening round matches will be played outside of Fiji with Samoa hosting the Junior All Blacks in Apia and Tonga entertaining the Fijians in Nukuʻalofa the following day before the tournament moves to Fiji for a 17-day festival of international rugby spread across three match venues: the ANZ National Stadium (Suva), Churchill Park (Lautoka) and Lawaqa Park (Sigatoka).

Stephen Betham is the former Head Coach of the Samoa national rugby union team, that regularly participated in the World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup. Betham, who played for Samoa U-20's at a young age, has spent most his rugby career as a coach.

Sanele Vavae Tuilagi Rugby player

Sanele Vavae Tuilagi is a Samoan professional rugby player. Sanele is the younger brother of former and current Samoan internationals Henry, Freddie, Alesana, Anitelea Tuilagi and the older brother of England international Manu Tuilagi.

Oceania Womens Sevens Championship

The Oceania Women's Sevens is the regional championship for women's international rugby sevens in Oceania. The tournament is held over two days, typically on a weekend. It is sanctioned and sponsored by Oceania Rugby, which is the rugby union governing body for the region.

The 2014 IRB Pacific Nations Cup, was the ninth edition of the IRB Pacific Nations Cup, the annual Tier 2 Rugby union tournament. Unlike previous competitions, the tournament was divided into two conferences of three teams each, with no interconference matches. Samoa emerged as the winner of the Pacific Islands conference title ahead of Fiji and Tonga, while Japan took out the Asia/Pacific conference remaining undefeated ahead of United States and Canada.


  1. "International Rugby Board - SAMOA". Archived from the original on 2011-09-02. Retrieved 2012-01-19.
  2. Jones, p10
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 Bath p78