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Fotuali'i targets 2015 progression

Scrum-half Kahn Fotuali'i believes Samoa can consign shock victories to history and target the knockout stages of Rugby World Cup 2015.

The Northampton Saints half-back thinks Samoa are ready to wrestle a permanent seat at world rugby's top table.

Former Ospreys playmaker Fotuali'i will be gunning for victory over Ireland in Dublin on Saturday, to rubber-stamp Samoa's International Rugby board ranking.

The Samoans sit seventh in the world standings, one place above Joe Schmidt's Ireland.

The Pacific Islands nation have not reached a World Cup quarter final since 1995, but 31-year-old Fotuali'i predicts a break in that sequence in England in two years' time.

Proud of Samoa's consistent progress in the last two years, he said: "On paper the squad looks strong: now the challenge is to transfer that to the field.

"It's a great challenge to take on Ireland and an exciting one.

"That progression we've talked about has to step up again this weekend.

"We fight for results and victories: years in the past certain wins might have been viewed by some as shocks, and maybe even Samoa saw them like that too.

"But it's not that way anymore.

"You can see that with the calibre of players declaring for Samoa.

"Players who are eligible for other countries are now making themselves available more and more for Samoa.

"As the whole Samoan set-up becomes more professional, more and more players will start making themselves available.

"Players want international rugby to be a step up from club rugby, and we're getting to that point with Samoa now.

"Already our focus is on preparing for 2015, we've got a good structure in place for how to move the team forward.

"There's a good core of players, and hopefully whoever makes that squad will have experience of two or three years at least by then.

"I believe Samoa can make an impact on the latter stages of that tournament, provided we keep improving and progressing from here on in."

Expecting a fierce contest if he lines up against Munster's Conor Murray on Saturday, Fotuali'i admitted the wealth similar big-reputation counterparts helped prompt his summer Northampton move.

He continued: "He's a pretty big guy, he's very physical and likes to be a direct runner, going at a defence a lot.

"His distribution is good and his skills are tight, so it's always a challenge going up against him.

"One of the factors of moving to the competition was definitely to go up against the best regularly.

"I wanted to test myself against that before the end of my career, to see how I would measure up.

"Hopefully I can enjoy the experience and come away with some silverware.

"You can definitely say that the competitive streak means you want to measure yourself against the best."

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