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Samo reflects on All Black and Counties connection

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James Mortimer     02 Jan 2012     Getty Images

Samo was recalled by Wallabies coach Robbie Deans to end a long international hiatus, and while he may not have had a massive impact at the World Cup, the All Blacks and rival Investec Super Rugby teams found to their peril how dynamic the Narewa Village product can be.

The Reds and Wallabies number eight, back in his native Fiji, fondly recalled to the Fiji Times a story that could apply to every budding Fijian rugby player.

"Even now seeing these kids playing in every corner of the village brings back memories of my childhood days because we Fijians love our rugby," Samo said.

"Just like all other boys growing up in the village, I imagined I was one of the many famous Flying Fijian players while enjoying a game of touch rugby with my friends."

One would have expected his path to lie with the Flying Fijians, but after the small Island had endured a tropical storm, he found something that would change his life forever.

"There was one time back home in the village after the hurricane, we were cleaning the house I found a little Wallabies sticker on the top of the ceiling so I took it out and stuck it under the ceiling. Some of my cousins were there and I told them after putting up the sticker that one day I will play for the Wallabies," he said.

It was watching the All Blacks that drove him to achieve his dream of playing in the green and gold.

"As a young kid growing up watching the All Blacks play the Australians during the Bledisloe Cup inspired me to chase my dreams and I always remember the words I told my cousins after that hurricane and the story of the sticker,” he said.

“And it all came back to me in 2004 after donning the Wallabies jumper at the end of the season, my cousins were sitting down having kava and one of them asked me to look up at the ceiling and I saw that the sticker was still there and he reminded me of what I had said as a youngster… it's so awesome to look back at it in hindsight and realise that dreams can come true," he said.

Playing for Nadi as a teenager, he made the Fijian national under-19 team, before heading to New Zealand to continue his rugby education.

Again his path could have diverged and he could have been part of a generation of stars that would one day counts themselves amongst the greats of New Zealand rugby.

Samo represented Counties-Manukau at Under-21 level, and could have stayed with the Steelers as they would approach one of their greatest eras.

While Samo played, a couple of big wingers were representing Counties senior team, by the name of Jonah Lomu and Joeli Vidiri; while a young prodigy named Joe Rokocoko was beginning to make a name for himself in the Counties Under-16 team.

Lomu and Vidiri, alongside other stars including Junior Paramore and Tony Marsh, would form the backbone of one of the finest Counties’ teams ever, losing the 1996 and 1997 NPC finals to Auckland and Canterbury respectively.

Samo would eventually cast his lot with Australian rugby, and the big man underwent a renaissance in 2011 as he stunned the rugby world scoring an outstanding solo try in the Wallabies 25-20 win over the All Blacks in his home stadium of Suncorp.

His fifty metre plus effort was awarded the International Rugby Players Association's Try of the Year.