Force four press for World Cup selection
Four Western Force players are in calculations for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, after their performances during the Global Rapid Rugby Showcase has seen them catapult into contention for Samoa and the USA.
Forward Henry Stowers, playmaker AJ Alatimu, and centre Henry Taefu, have all been invited to join the Samoan squad, while utility back Marcel Brache returns to action for the US Eagles and will cross paths with his Force teammates during the upcoming Pacific Nations Cup, a key build-up tournament ahead of the World Cup.
Stowers, who will join the Samoan senior squad for the first time, took his game to a new level for the Western Force during their Rapid Rugby campaign, benefiting from the hard work of a strong pre-season. The 24-year old hasn’t been far from national selectors minds having captained the Samoan U20s in 2014 but says being on the cusp of representing his country at senior level, and having a chance to lock in a World Cup spot is something he has aspired to achieve from an early age.
“I was extremely happy to be called into the team, it is so exciting and has always been a dream of mine to pull on the Samoan jersey. I can’t wait to experience the Pacific Nations Cup and hopefully put myself in a position to head to the World Cup too,” Stowers said.
“I remember watching the Samoa team play on TV growing up with my Grandmother and Mum, and I always pictured myself to be there one day. I don’t think it will really register until I get there – I guess once I play my first game that is when it will all feel real.”
Standing 190cm and weighing 110kg, Stowers has been a mainstay in the Force backrow, starting in all nine of the club’s Showcase matches.
“Sambo (Force Head Coach Tim Sampson) had big plans for me in the pre-season, to get me fit and to make the starting squad for the Force. I’m very grateful that he rewarded me and gave me some good minutes this year and put that trust me in week in and week out,” Stowers said.
“Being here at the Western Force and playing in the Rapid Rugby Showcase was the perfect place for me and gave me the opportunity to show the Samoan selectors what I could offer.”
Global Rapid Rugby’s Head of Rugby Matt Hodgson said it was fantastic that the new league was already providing a stage for players across the Asia-Pacific region, including here in Western Australia, to push for national team selection.
“It is a huge honour to represent your country and with that comes a lot of competition for places, particularly in a World Cup year where there is so much on the line,” Hodgson said.
“It is important that players are competing consistently at a high level so that they are at the forefront of selectors minds and we’re delighted that the 2019 Global Rapid Rugby Showcase has provided a platform for players from across the Asia-Pacific to press their claims for World Cup selection.”
Alatimu and Taefu have both previously been capped by Samoa but are no less excited about joining the squad, particularly in a World Cup year. Brache meanwhile will look to build on his impressive performances for the American’s after helping the Eagles qualify for a spot in the World Cup.