As a great poker lover, Samisoni Langi likes to surprise his opponents. Fouad Yaha, who knows his “Tongan brother” by heart after five seasons alongside him on the left of the Catalans Dragons attack, admits to being sometimes disconcerted when a game starts with him. “He is very good, varies his game all the time, he is too difficult to read”jokes the winger, package last week (hamstring) and who returns this Sunday for the decisive match against Samoa (6 p.m.).
When a little over a year ago, Mathias Pala, physical trainer for the France team, threw a joke at Langi about the Blues, he quickly understood that, this time, the center (29 years old ) was not bluffing: “I knew he was going to be eligible (after five years on French territory), so I told him in a joking tone: “That’s it, you’re French, you can play with us!” And he took me seriously! » The face of the native of Auburn, about fifteen kilometers from Sydney, lit up. And the desire to join the Blues never left him. “I was on cloud nine! I wasn’t familiar with the eligibility rules, so I hadn’t given it too much thought, but it was a huge honor for me. »
“I realized that his last five years in France changed his life. He wanted to give back to France what it was able to bring him.
The information reaches the ears of the coach, Laurent Frayssinous, who does not have a very large tank in his position and immediately contacts the player: “We drank coffee, I also went to see his wife to dig a little deeper and find out her real motivation. And I realized that his last five years in France changed his life. He wanted to give back to France what she was able to bring him. I asked him: “What if we call you with Tonga?” He said to me: “No, no, if you want me, the France team will be my priority”. »
More selected since 2016, the international with seven selections and two World Cups with Tonga (2013 and 2017), the country of his parents, had no trouble turning the page: “My mother encouraged me, the oldest of my brothers too, it was important to me. France is my second home. »
Even though her husband’s contract at the Catalans Dragons has not been renewed, Azai, his New Zealand wife, confirms: “When he decided to represent France, we were behind him 100%. Our children were born in Perpignan. The oldest goes to school here, we love the culture. We are friends with the players. For us, it made sense. »
The long administrative procedures are then launched by the Federation. And “Francis”, or “The French Man” as his partners nicknamed him, officially became selectable a few weeks before the World Cup.
His fighting sense will be essential against the Samoans
Despite his experience, notably at the Sydney Roosters (2013-2015), one of the most prestigious clubs in the world, and his 107 Super League matches in Catalan colours, the centre, who revised the Marseillaise on YouTube, admits to having been ” stress “ during his first selection in the blue jersey against the Tonga Islands in a warm-up match (48-12 defeat, October 8).
But very quickly, he took his bearings to establish himself as the father of the back lines. “In life, he is someone simple, discreetsays Thomas Bosc, assistant coach of Perpignan. But on the field, he is a warrior. He will go ahead and take the dirty balloons. » Against England last week, despite the heavy score (42-18)Langi was thus one of the most active players (20 balls, 150 meters gained). “He was very valuable, when we were under pressure with his ball comebacks, he did a very big job”continues Frayssinous. “Everything he does is clean, adds Mathias Pala. In terms of defensive choices, he will never get excited, always be in the right place at the right time. »
“I will never forget my first selection with Tonga, it was precisely against Samoa in Australia during the 2013 World Cup (36-14) and I scored two tries. I hope to do the same with the Blues”
This Sunday afternoon, within a three-quarter line even younger than usual, since the experienced Morgan Escaré, damaged in the hamstring against England, was not retained – this which should result in the replacement of Arthur Mourgue at the back and the young César Rougé, 20, at half-back, the experience and sense of combat of Langi (1.85 m; 106 kg) will be a new times essential in the face of the explosiveness of the Samoans. Which crushed the Greeks (72-4) last week. “I know these guys very well. I played with them in NRL, like Joseph Paulo or Jarome Luai who sang at my weddinglaughs Langi. IIs have a physical team, it will be necessary to answer. We are preparing for the future. But if we respect the game plans, we will win. »
In the event of victory, the Blues would reach the quarter-finals, their initial objective, as in 2013. A year which brings back precious memories to the newcomer: ” I will never forget my first selection with Tonga, it was precisely against Samoa in Australia (36-14) and I had scored two tries. I hope to do the same with the Blues. » When it comes to the France team, Samisoni Langi never bluffs.