The Samoa Rugby Union has released some very interesting changes to the list of players and management who will be heading to the H.S.B.C. World Series in Hong Kong.
It’s pretty much a case of something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.
The old is the return of Alatasi Tupou; the new is the inclusion of Mathew Tuatagaloa; the borrowed is Paul Tietjens and the blue?
Well that would be Manu Samoa’s Fa’alemiga Selesele.
The Head Coach of the Manu Samoa Sevens, Sir Gordon Tietjens offered explanations for the new additions in an exclusive interview with the Samoa Observer.
According to Tietjens, Sevens sensation, Fa’alemiga Selesele has recovered and is in fine form for Hong Kong.
“Fa’alemiga is back. At our training on Thursday he performed exceptionally well. And he got involved in all the physical contact. He’s a classy Seven players and who I thought played extremely well for Samoa and it’s so good to have him back. If he plays well, the team will play well.”
Also, with Afa Aiono out because of injury, the team sees the return of veteran, Alatasi Tupou, who Tietjens says will be a great asset now that he’s much fitter than before.
“We know what Alatasi can do. He’s only 28 years of age and I certainly believe, a very fit Alatasi Tupou is going to be very good for Samoa.
He’s very dangerous.
He’s got a good head for the game, he understands the game.
He’s skilful, I suppose what’s let him down in the past is his lack of fitness levels, but he’s committed himself to getting fit and he’s fitter now then he has in a long, long time. I think having him there with his experience certainly going into Hong Kong is a plus for the team.
“I was really concerned if we lost Tila by way of injury, we’d be exposed in a big way. I still needed someone there with the skill set of Tila, which Alatasi has. He’s a good kicker and that’s good to have.”
New to the ranks is Mathew Tuatagaloa who is a brother to Manu Samoa and All Black player, Belgium Tuatagaloa.
Tietjens said the younger Tuatagaloa caught his eye during the 29th Vailima Marist International Tournament in Samoa.
“He played in the tournament and stayed and trialled for us.
I thought he played very well in the Marist Tournament and he stayed on to trial for us. He came over from New Zealand to have another crack to make the team to travel for the tournament. He’s trialled really well and he’s been selected for the team.”’
As for the management, Sir Gordon’s son Paul Tietjens will be the new trainer.
Sir Gordon Tietjens explained that the abrupt resignation of their last trainer left Tietjens taking on the role of head coach and trainer.
With only four tournaments left in the H.S.B.C. tournament, Tiejtens was in dire need of a trainer who already knew his expectations and had the experience.
“Our conditioning trainer, Hugh Slobbe left. We haven’t had a real conditioning trainer on board with us. In the last tournament, it was too much to try and coach the team and be their conditioning trainer - being involved in all their warm ups and their preparation. It was quite disruptive and took me away from my role, which is to coach the team.”
“Paul’s a physical education teacher in New Zealand. He’s young, he’s 28. He was also the conditioning trainer for the Bay of Plenty Sevens team for the last two years. He’s coached the Bay of Plenty Sevens team this year in New Zealand.
He also understands the game of Sevens and the rigor and conditioning requirements in this game.
So we saw it as an opportunity to grow him into that role for the four tournaments. He knows the players, but more importantly he knows what I want from a conditioning perspective. I think that’s very important.”
“We’ll look to advertise after this year, for a new conditioning trainer because it’s such an important position in any Sevens team but it’s too late in the season to do that now.
The best solution to fix the problem was to get someone who understands the game and requirements and Paul’s that best person.”
“I want to make it quite clear, if I thought my son wasn’t capable to be involved in this role then certainly he wouldn’t be part of the team.
He’s played representative Sevens at the highest level in New Zealand. He’s a P.E. teacher, that’s his trade.
He’s also a conditioning coach. And also, obviously he’s a coach now. His main goal is to succeed in the art of coaching.”
“But short term fact, Paul is probably the best person to fill in this role for these next four tournaments.”
Although Paul will be joining the team in the H.S.B.C. series, Assistant Coach, Stephen Betham will not.
Tietjens explained Betham’s absence, “I’ve always said I need someone back on the island who is actually pushing these players to the level they need to be at, fitness-wise.”
“What’s really important for me is the players that missed selection is have someone back on the island still pushing them and working them hard. The best person to do that is Stephen because he understands the requirements also.
But the most important part is them being supervised that they are being pushed to level they need to be at.
At any given time, they could be required to show up in Hong Kong through injury or in the next tournament in Singapore. Betham will be providing me with the best feedback for that.”
As for preparations for Hong Kong, Tietjens said that if the team incorporates the recent improvements in performance we should expect an explosive opener against Australia. “Obviously the team has prepared well right throughout the week and last week.
I think that there’s a lot of learning from the previous two tournaments.
“Our aim is to start the tournament really well with a really good game against Australia. I believe if we play to our potential and have those improvements, we can push that very, very close.