New Scarlets centre Kieron Fonotia is hoping his decision not to play for Samoa this summer will not cost him his World Cup dream.
Samoa beat Germany in a play-off to qualify for the 2019 tournament, where they will play hosts Japan, Ireland, Scotland and Russia in Pool A.
Fonotia decided to stay in Wales rather than travel for the two-legged tie.
“It has always been a goal of mine to play in the World Cup,” said the 30-year-old, who has won seven Samoa caps.
He opted out of the qualification matches to ensure he had a full pre-season with Scarlets following his move from Ospreys.
- Rugby World Cup 2019: New Zealand begin title defence against South Africa
Without him, Samoa won 66-15 and 42-28 to record a 108-43 aggregate victory over Germany.
“I tried to make a smart decision for my career, to hit the ground running this season,” said Fonotia.
“Personally I have not had a pre-season for a while and thought it would be quite nice to freshen up, and come back into a new team at the same time as everyone else.
“I told the coaches that very thing. It was a hard decision not to play for Samoa in the break because it is a team I haven’t played a lot of games for.
“I have to get back in there and try and make the team now.
“There will be plenty of people coming out of the woodwork when it comes to the World Cup. It has been a goal of mine for a while now and it would be awesome to be a part of.”
New Zealand links
A strong season with Scarlets should help that cause with Fonotia, who was born in Christcurch, reinforcing the strong New Zealand links in Llanelli.
He will link up with former house-mates Johnny McNicholl and Hadleigh Parkes, and work under Wayne Pivac, who will become the Wales coach in 2019.
“It is a good environment to be a part of and getting back playing with a couple of old mates makes it a bit easier,” said Fonotia.
“I had a couple of meetings with Wayne and he seems like a nice guy and down to earth.
“I did not know him in New Zealand but Parkesy and Johnny have only ever said good things about the environment.
“You can see what he has done for this club and what attracted me was the brand of rugby the Scarlets have played and just being a part of that will be awesome.”
Struggles at Ospreys
Fonotia admitted he struggled during his two seasons at Liberty Stadium and hopes Scarlets’ style of play will suit him.
“I struggled a bit at the Ospreys with the way they played,” he said.
“I am not going to sit here and bad mouth them or anything, but I didn’t find form until the end, when I got given a bit of a licence to be me a bit more.
“From everything I looked at and talking to the coaches, you get a good chance to express yourself at the Scarlets and be the player you want to try and be.”
Fonotia is looking to replace Scott Williams, who has made the opposite journey from Scarlets to Ospreys and will now also have to oust the Wales duo of Parkes and the fit-again Jonathan Davies.
“It is always good to have competition, it brings the best out of you,” he added.
“Both of those players have played a high level of rugby and I am looking forward to learning off them and giving my ideas as well.”
Share if you enjoyed this post!