After helping Samoa to a historic victory over Australia recently, new Ospreys scrum-half Kahn Fotuali'i is gearing up for his first ever Rugby World Cup experience before arriving at the Liberty Stadium in the autumn as he enjoys "the biggest year of his career".
It’s been a whirlwind few weeks for 29-year old Fotuali’i, who was involved in the Super XV final with Crusaders less than a month ago, prior to Samoa’s first ever win against the Wallabies, and after last weekend’s ITM Cup fixture with his provincial team Hawkes Bay, he will meet up again with the Samoan squad as they prepare for the World Cup in New Zealand.
He was an influential figure as Samoa shocked the rugby world once again with an impressive performance in Sydney, defeating their hosts 32-23, as they ran in four tries to two, sending out a warning to their World Cup Pool D rivals South Africa, Fiji, Namibia and, of course, Wales.
Reflecting on the historic occasion, Fotuali’i said it was special, not only for him but for his country:
“It was definitely a real highlight, personally and for Samoa. The country was on a high after the game and it’s an amazing boost for the people.
“It was down to determination and a simple game plan, that’s all really. As a team we are always eager, and we have physicality about us. The result gives Samoans something to focus on as a nation and to celebrate, but it’s only the start of our World Cup preparations.
“We haven’t won anything, we’ve got a lot of hard work to do and we have to put in the same level of effort and performance over four pool matches. The Australia win is just a starting point, and if we can build on it and reach the same standards then hopefully it could be a good World Cup for Samoa.
“It’s a first World Cup for me and obviously it’s going to be another highlight of my career. I’m excited about being part of it, but like the rest of the team, I have to be focussed to make sure we don’t let Samoa down.”
With his impending arrival in Ospreylia, clearly the game against Wales on 18th September will have some extra spice for the new signing, but he is quick to play down the importance of a fixture being built up in some quarters as being the decisive one for both team’s fortunes:
“That game is an exciting prospect and it’ll be strange getting to know my Ospreys team-mates on the pitch before training them. It’ll be quite cool looking at it, and exciting to get stuck into a game against so many guys who will become good mates.
“It’s being built up as the key game in the group, especially with Samoa’s record against Wales in the competition. That’s not right, it’s not a fair reflection of the pool, there are good teams involved and all of them will believe they can have an impact so it’s not just about Samoa V Wales. All the games are important and I reckon there could be a fair few ups and downs along the way.”
Once the World Cup is out of the way, Fotuali’i will be straight on a plane and heading to his new home in Ospreylia and he says that he’s looking forward to playing behind a pack he describes as a “big strength”, and is quick to play down his importance to the team next season.
“From what I know about the Ospreys, what I’ve seen and heard, it’s obvious that the forwards are a big strength for the team” he said.
“The pack is pretty dominant at scrum time and around the park and as a nine that’s a big bonus. It’s easier to do my job behind a front eight that can provide a platform to work on and that’s a big positive for me.
“I’m not sure that it’s really just about what I can bring to the team, it does work both ways. Obviously I’ve got experience of a different style of play, but I will be looking to learn from the experience of coming over to Wales and being in a new environment. Obviously I want to grow and progress as a leader in a team environment, and if I can help the Ospreys kick on over the next two years then I’ll be happy.”
Having spent the last four years at the Crusaders, he is one of a number of players moving on this year and hoping to sign off with a Super XV title in the bag. However, an 18-13 defeat against the Reds in Brisbane last month meant he ended his time with the Canterbury based team on a losing note, and he admits that he was disappointed to finish that way:
“It was gutting to lose the final” he admitted.
“A few of us are leaving and we wanted to go out on a high note. To win would have been great but it didn’t happen for us on the day, we just weren’t able to do it against a very good Reds team.
“We did all the hard work with a good run of results leading into the final, but to fall at the final hurdle like we did meant that it had been all for nothing. I had four good years at Crusaders and will take plenty of memories from the place.
“There’s four or five of us have finished there now but it’s disappointing that we couldn’t sign off with the big win in the final, but with the World Cup to come, and a move to the Ospreys, there’s no time to dwell on anything. It’s the biggest year of my rugby career, and the biggest challenges are definitely still to come.”