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Warriors Samoa are determined to go out with a bang

 

TJ Ioane
TJ Ioane

By RuaidhriO'Connor

Thanks to their performance in battle, the samurai were a warrior class but it wasn't always that way. The word originally meant 'to serve or look up to' someone.

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At first, those warriors were hired guns, availa­ble to the highest bidder for warring clans aiming to control ancient Japan. Over time, they became firmly part of the establishment.

In rugby terms, the Pacific Islanders are the sport's soldiers of fortune, scattered across the globe attached to big-spending club own­ers who pay good money for their physical gifts.

When they do well, they are rewarded handsomely but the con­ditions are often tough. Some are told they can no longer represent the homeland in international com­petition, others are incentivised to take up the cause of another nation.

Often providing for families back home, the players are left with little choice but to comply.

On Tuesday, the Samoan squad were invited to tour the Samurai exhibition at the Fukuoka Museum, a world of swords, armour and spears that captivated a group of players who have grown into this tournament and appear to be finding cohe­sion just too late to make a mark.

They beat Russia in a controversial opener, before struggling against Scotland under the Kobe Misaki roof and pushing Japan to deep into injury-time last weekend.

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It is a glimpse of what they could achieve if given a proper standing in the game to achieve their goals. Time together with good facilities and games against strong opponents have brought them on, but after Saturday's game against Ireland they'll scatter to the four winds once again to go back to the day jobs.

Before they go, they want one last performance.

"It would be awesome for us just to put our stamp or our mark on the World Cup before we go," flanker TJ Ioane says. "Results have not gone our way but the process and the goal to finish on a high still doesn't change. It is still the same. We want to give the Irish a good crack.

"It's a shame we've only got one game left. Our team has been awe­some, not just the 23 but No's 1-31, the boys that have been there.

"We all challenge each other, bring the best out of each other. The boys that are playing and the boys that do miss out, at the end of the day anyone can play on game-day and you'd be happy for your brother.

"Everyone brings the attitude, brings the physicality and hope­fully we've done ourselves and our country and our supporters who've backed us from day one proud.

"The Scotland game was quite tough, but we can look at the posi­tives from the Japan game and take a lot from that."

On Monday night, Ioane  got a phone call from home.

Currently, that's London and the voice on the other end of the line came with a familiar Cork lilt. His coach at London Irish, (former Ireland coach) Declan Kid­ney, wanted to wish him well.

"He said, 'Good luck, just to you, because you know where I stand and who I support this week'," Ioane says with a wide smile. "He is a very good man, very passionate.

"I think you Irish are very similar to ourselves, they back themselves and they have got a lot of pride and passion. They bleed green like we bleed blue."

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