Fitting finale for long life of Brian

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The Independent Online

Brian Lima puts his record-breaking longevity down to, among other things, "honesty, humility and the strength of God", not that those qualities prevent the Samoa wing who is about to become the first man to play in a fifth World Cup from pointing out his part in England's win in 2003.

"We were very close to upsetting England in 2003," Lima said. "It was a wake-up call for them. I don't think they will make the same mistake this time."

Lima's first World Cup was as a 19-year-old in 1991, when the then Western Samoa beat Wales and launched a remarkable odyssey which has helped make the tournament what it is today. Now 35, Lima says Samoa are a better team than in 2003. And he expects England, who got away with a 35-22 win in Melbourne, to have taken heed before the rematch in Nantes on 22 September.

"England took us lightlyin 2003 but they didn't underestimate any opponent after us and they went on to win it," said Lima at Loughborough University,where Samoa are training. "They will look at us and take us seriously. We are not looking at England's recent results. I am sure that they will play their hearts out to defend their trophy."

At centre or on the wing Lima has appeared in all 16 of Samoa's World Cup matches, including the quarter-finals of 1991 and 1995. Michael Jones, the great All Black flanker who is Samoa's head coach, describes Lima as the "mentally toughest individual I have ever met".

Tougher than Buck Shelford and all those other Kiwis, Michael? "Oh yes. To continue for 16 years is mind-boggling, when his passion, the intensity and physicality have not diminished one iota. Brian is not here for sentimental value or a feelgood story. It's because he's still one of Samoa's best four wingers."

Lima is also, according to Jones, "the nation's favourite son". Retirement and the family car rental business await when Lima goes home to his wife, Sina, and their sons, Brian Jnr, Daniel Maafala and Brisin Manumalo. "I don't think anyone will do five World Cups again," Lima said. "There's too many games, and too much contact."

And no one knows more about contact than Lima, who gained the glorious nickname "The Chiropractor" at the Otago Highlanders, "because they said, 'Every time you put in a hit we hear something crack or click'." Jones adds: "He's lost some pace, but he makes up for it with intuition, nous and an ability to read lines. He's the sweetest timer of a tackle I've seen."

In another World Cup first, there are three brothers – Henry, Alesana and Anitelea Tuilagi – in the Samoa squad, which Lima prefers to call "a family". They have prayer meetings each day before supper and will go to church in France.

"Big hits are not our only weapon," said Lima. "Our boys play smart as well. But it does affect the game if you put the big hit in. If you get the opportunity, go for it, fair and hard."