SHANE HURNDELL
All Black rugby legend and former Samoa coach Michael Jones has heard talk suggesting tonight's test in New Plymouth will be a waste of time for both camps.
He doesn't want a bar of it.
"For the Samoans, this test is huge. It may not be the best Samoan team but it is a dream come true," said Jones who was the guest speaker at the Tamatea Rugby Club's prize-giving last weekend.
"The Samoan boys will play with plenty of passion. In games like this, boys become men ... opportunities to play the best team in the world shouldn't be turned down.
"When the Samoans gave up war, they took up rugby."
"The Iceman"as Jones, 43, became known during his 74 matches including 55 tests for the All Blacks from 1987 to 1998 feels rugby will not be a truly global game until a Pacific Islands team becomes part of an expanded Super 14 competition.
"I believe a Pacific Islands team can eventually become one of the world's top four sides with regular play in some of the world's best competitions.
"Imagine a Super 16 competition with the Pacific Islands team and either Japan or Argentina coming in.
"Good leadership and vision is required to bring these teams in. Once they are in, a little bit of patience will be required."
Jones recalled when Italy joined the Six Nations, they got some hidings initially but have improved and recently beat Argentina.
"People are sick of the same old thing in the Super 14 ... it's time for change."
Jones, who is now a director of the Reef Group shipping company, believed it was a commendable decision of Kelt Capital Magpies prop Anthony Perenise to turn down the opportunity to play for Samoa tonight because he wanted more time to mature. "That's a wise move as props don't mature until they get closer to 30. At the same time, we could have done with him at the World Cup last year."
Jones was also keen to secure the services of Magpies No 8 George Naoupu for Samoa a few years ago but he couldn't as Naoupu had played for New Zealand Sevens. Jones urged players of Pacific Island heritage who aren't going to become All Blacks to help strengthen Islands rugby.
The former Auckland NPC player and Blues openside flanker has been impressed with the Magpies this season and is tipping them to go further than last year's semi-final finish. Jones is hoping for a Bay of Plenty-Hawke's Bay final.
"It would be great for the provincial heartlands," said Jones, putting in a word for the underdogs. "I'll be disappointed if Karl Lowe (the Magpies openside flanker) doesn't get a Super 14 contract this season. He's playing well and that try he scored against Southland was one of the best I've seen in the Cup this season."
Jones' late father was offered a Hawke's Bay trial when he was living and working in Nuhaka but turned it down so he could go to Samoa and marry the Iceman's mother.
Regarded as one of the best All Blacks ever, Jones had plenty of advice for Tamatea's Colts players who were beaten semi-finalists in this year's Hawke's Bay competition after he unveiled a memorial plaque during the club's prizegiving.
"My mum always told me to aim for the moon ... you might not get there but at least you'll be up with the stars."
He pointed out failure wasn't when a person fell down, it was when they didn't get up again. He also stressed the importance of being prepared to say "no" when it was easier to say "yes" and the need to cut down excuses.
The Colts were impressed when Jones told them about the dream he had when he was eight, which involved him scoring a try for the All Blacks. That dream came true more than once in his career.
It's no secret he dreams about the day Samoa will beat the All Blacks. It may not happen tonight ... but at least the Samoans will be mixing it with the stars.