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Schwalger and Samoa can't wait for first RWC match

Updated: September 12, 2011, 03:46


ROTORUA, New Zealand(AP) Mahonri Schwalger is relieved that Samoa doesn't have to wait much longer to get into the Rugby World Cup.

Watching 16 other teams kick off has so frustrated the Samoans that Schwalger joked they're starting to get annoyed just from the sight of rugby on TV.

Samoa's wait will end Wednesday, when it runs out against Namibia at Rotorua International Stadium.

"Some of the guys have been watching a lot of rugby the last couple of days, and they're pretty keen to get out there,'' said Schwalger, Samoa's captain and hooker. "They can't wait to play.''

While it sounds like smoke is billowing off spinning wheels in the Samoa machine, Schwalger denied they are having to tone down training or hold anyone back.

"The boys know what they have to do,'' he said. "They just want to go out and execute.''

Schwalger is not one for sitting still, either.

Born in Apia and raised in "Samoa's second city'' of Auckland, New Zealand, Schwalger began his first-class rugby career about seven hours' drive south in Hawke's Bay. He moved on to play for Wellington and had Super rugby stints with the Otago Highlanders and Wellington Hurricanes. Then he signed overseas with Llanelli and Sale, but cut short his time in Britain after a falling out with abrasive former Sale coach Mike Brewer.

Schwalger's availability was good timing for New Zealand province Taranaki, whose main hooker broke his arm. Schwalger reunited with coach Colin Cooper, under whom he played at the Hurricanes.

"I like playing for Colin,'' Schwalger said. "He's taught me a lot, and still does.''

It is hard not to play in New Zealand and not wonder why the All Blacks, and even the Wallabies, have never played a test in rugby-mad Apia against Samoa. If they ever do, Schwalger won't still be playing - he turns 33 on Thursday - but he said that day would be long overdue.

Schwalger knows sponsorship money and bigger gates elsewhere mean the All Blacks and Wallabies don't visit their Pacific Island neighbors, but Samoa, he said, could gain so much traction from such matches.

"We could reach our potential quicker,'' he said.

Samoa showed some of that potential when it downed the Wallabies 32-23 in Sydney in mid-July for one of its greatest ever victories. Schwalger said they went in believing they could pull it off, and winning confirmed they were good enough to stand with the top teams. Since then, Samoa has put more hurt on Australians by twice posting 30 points on the Super 15's Western Force in Apia in its only other warmups for the World Cup.

This will be the third World Cup for Schwalger, and this time he's hoping to lead them to at least the quarterfinals. Samoa hasn't made the last eight since 1995.

Schwalger said Samoa was better-placed for an improved performance on 2007, when only one game of four was won. Samoa was far more disciplined and armed with a better variety of weapons. Team management had also undergone a key upgrade, to the point where off-field issues were no longer a distraction for a team always struggling for cash and the release of its best players.

"We just worry about our own performance now,'' he said.

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