IT may be a small Pacific Island but, as the drubbing Samoa gave the Wallabies two years ago showed, it’s not an insignificant force in rugby.
Some of the best schoolboy players in the Country are about to find that out for themselves, with the NSW Country Schoolboys development tour heading to Samoa and Fiji.
The tour party flies out today and includes The Armidale Schools’ Hunter Barnett, George Berry, Will Frost, Jackson Gilbey, Matthew Rasmussen, Callum Morris, Pierce Hayden, Clay Lillyman, Ben Mulligan, Joel Blackwell and Narrabri’s Dean Wilson and Matt Nott.
Kicking the tour off in Samoa, the squad will have training sessions with Samoan Rugby high performance unit coaches ahead of two fixtures.
Their first game, on Thursday, will be in the Samoan capital Apia against St Joseph’s College, one of the island’s most traditional rugby schools.
Two days later they will play an invitational XV from the Anomaa district, the breeding ground of many Samoan international players.
They will provide one of the team’s sternest tests on the tour.
It’s then off to Fiji, where they will play the first XV teams from Nadroga Navosa Provincial High School and Morman College, Lautoka.
Inverell’s Hunter Barnet is one of the 10 TAS players in the squad and said the tour would greatly benefit players as they head into the season.
“It will be pretty tough – they are likely to be much bigger blokes than us – but facing them should help with our confidence for our own season matches ahead,” he said.
“It will also be good to experience a different style of rugby.
“They love running hard lines and straight ahead, whereas Australians tend to kick a bit more and use the width of the field.”
Team manager Jim Pennington said even though boys came across the state from Wellington to Walgett and Nowra to Moree, they have bonded together well as a squad.
“After their selection last year they had an intensive training session in November, and then again earlier this month – so they’re all looking forward to developing their skills in some challenging but enjoyable rugby in a beautiful part of the world,” Pennington said.
NSW COUNTRY SCHOOLBOYS SQUAD: Hunter Barnett (Inverell), George Berry (Walcha), Joel Blackwell (Wollomombi), Damien Carriage (Macksville), Brad Collins (Wellington), Nicholas Cook (Newcastle), Jayden Daley (Newcastle), Jeb Freeman (Woolgoolga), Will Frost (Armidale), Jackson Gilbey (Armidale), Cody Graham (Armidale), Pierce Hayden (Glen Innes), Sam Huddy (Lismore), Clay Lillyman (Walgett), Harry Lind (Newcastle), Callum Morris (Walcha), Ben Mulligan (Moree), Matthew Nott (Narrabri), Kyle O’Hara (Armidale), Nathan Pickering (Nowra), Matthew Rasmussen (Uralla), Jordan Sheather (Macksville), Ben Stone (Newcastle), Tom Vincent (Aberdeen), Dean Wilson (Narrabri).