Fonotia named to start for Manu Samoa against All Blacks

Kieron Fonotia will start at centre for Manu Samoa in Friday's 'Pasifika Challenge rugby test against the All Blacks in Auckland.

The former Crusaders midfielder, who now plays for the Ospreys club in Wales, is the only new cap in the starting side named by head coach Namulauulu Alama Ieremia, while Stade Francais prop Paul Alo-Emile and Nevers halfback Auvasa Faleali'i are in line to earn their first cap off the bench.

"Obviously we want to put out an experienced team and the All Blacks is not a team you experiment with, so we are wanting to put on a performance that will make our nation and most importantly ourselves proud," Namulauulu said.

"Our performance will give us a 'rugby barometer' as to where are at, there is no better challenge and opportunity than playing the number one team in the world.

"This will give us an indication of where we are at because it is important to build momentum going in to June/July internationals".

Veteran winger David Lemi and midfielder Reynold Lee-Lo were both unavailable for selection through injury, with Kahn Fotuali'i to assume Lemi's captaincy duties.

"Obviously losing the experience that both these players bring is crucial and David's leadership will be missed, however Kahn Fotualii is more than capable of stepping up to lead, and to be able to replace those players with Alapati Leiua and Fonotia is a good test of the depth we can draw in to."

Namulauulu said they were "looking for a solid performance" against the All Blacks and hoped the Samoan community will turn up in big numbers to support them on game-day.

"As a team, we have drawn on the fantastic support here in New Zealand since we have arrived," he said.

"To see a wave of blue jerseys at the Mangere town centre for the welcoming ceremony was amazing last Saturday morning.

"From Super Rugby facilities to local rugby union clubs, local Samoan churches, councils and Samoan communities, the support has been overwhelming.

"It's a humbling experience for the team and together with all the support from Samoa and around the world, this week has been special. It's definitely added huge value to our preparation".

Manu Samoa squad:

1. Viliamu Afatia

2. Maatulimanu Leiataua

3. Census Johnston

4. Chris Vui

5. Faatiga Lemalu

6. Piula Faasalele

7. Jack Lam

8. Faifili Levave

9. Kahn Fotualii

10. Tusiata Pisi

11. Tim Nanai Williams

12. Alapati Leiua,

13. Kieron Fonotia

14. Albert Nikoro

15. Ah See Tuala

16. Seilala Lam

17. Nephi Leatigaga

18. Paul Alo-Emile

19. Taiasina Tuifua

20. Alafoti Faosiliva

21. Auvasa Falealii

22. D'Angelo Leuila

23. Ken Pisi


Photo: Samoa Rugby Union/Wayne Dowd (Kieron Fonotia will make his test debut for Samoa against the All Blacks).