Alafoti Faosiliva's Bristol Rugby debut put on hold by Samoa call-up
UNDER-FIRE Bristol's hopes of throwing powerhouse back-rower Alafoti Faosiliva in for his planned club debut against Jersey this weekend have been thwarted after he was called up by Samoa.
Faosiliva has become the second Bristol player to be called up for international duty this weekend, after Scotland named prop Kyle Traynor on the bench for their match against New Zealand.
Former Toulon back-rower Faosiliva, 27, would have featured for Bristol against Jersey on Sunday had it not been for his call-up, as head coach Liam Middleton, unsurprisingly, plans to make changes to the team thrashed 63-7 at Nottingham.
But Faosiliva – whose arrival in Bristol was delayed by a protracted wait for his visa – is required for Samoa's match against Canada at Parc Eirias in Colwyn Bay, while the tourists also face Wales in Cardiff (November 16) and France in Paris (November 24).
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"Unfortunately, Faosiliva has been called up by Samoa, which is a bit of a blow to us," said Middleton.
"He will be back pretty soon, but he won't be available to us this weekend, and I've been chomping at the bit to get him out on the pitch, because he's going to make a significant impact.
"It doesn't help us. It was a long, protracted visa process and we had a lot of work to do on that.
"We eventually got him here and I wanted to integrate him, because it's a new culture for him and a new language.
"This weekend was the time I was going to put him out and unleash him at the Mem – and he gets called up by Samoa. Unfortunately, IRB regulations don't allow us to contest it. I did verbally contest it, but unfortunately, for us, country comes first."
Bristol are, however, expected to welcome prop Jason Hobson back for his first appearance of the season after a knee injury.
"Hobbo will be back and it's important to appreciate the physicality and the leadership he brings to our squad – that's invaluable," said Middleton.
Bristol, who have beaten Bedford 23-13 and lost 63-7 at Nottingham in their past two matches, face a Jersey team who have won their last three games in all competitions.
But, with Middleton admitting that every one of his players has a point to prove this weekend, he is backing his players to produce a performance that repays the loyalty of their supporters.
"Jersey have got momentum on their side, but they've got to come to the Memorial Stadium against a team that's wounded, upset and embarrassed by their last performance," he said. "There's a group of players here who have to go out on Sunday and repay the commitment of our supporters, who made an impact on our win against Bedford. We can't underestimate the value of their support in the second half that spurred us on to something bigger.
"We have to go out and repay some of that commitment, because, for the people who travelled to Nottingham, we didn't show them what Bristol Rugby is about.
"Jersey are coming as a good side with momentum and confidence, but they're coming to the Memorial Stadium against a group of players who have got a huge point to prove.
"Every one of our players has got a huge point to prove. We're working on making that point in training – and it's got to be made on Sunday."