Recently appointed High Performance general Manager at the Samoa Rugby Union, Zane Hilton, has been brought in to fulfill a role by World Rugby and S.R.U. to assist the quality of the game in Samoa and in the international level.
The former Super Rugby coach for the Melbourne Rebels says he acknowledges Samoa rugby performance is not where the country wants it to be and it’s important at this stage to listen and proceed slowly.
“My game plan is not about coming in and changing the world quickly, we’ve got some real key objectives that we need to do right from the outset. We need the Manu to qualify and we need Manu 7s to be successful for the World Cup,” Mr. Hilton said.
“We got some great people, great coaches across the programme. It’s just about getting structure and really trying to identify what it is that Samoa rugby are good at, what are we known for because I think we can all appreciate our performances are not where we want them."
“We’re all about transparency here and I’ve made sure that everything is transparent, we appreciate that the community and the country are hurting because of our performances and we know that we need to improve and that starts here and that’s what I’m here to do.”
Mr. Hilton has been in the role for one month and said he has been trying to get strategic alignment in how the different programmes are facilitated and run in order to get a better understanding of the direction for the game here in Samoa.
“I think it’s best to start here and look back at what has worked well and what hasn’t and then again put in a plan to be able to get us back to where we were - 7's, Manu 15's, Samoa under 20's and under 18's - and then grow the game."
“We got some great things happening in our development department with the girls and with our women and to continue to develop the game. We’ve got players on island that we can look to put into the international stage."
“Everything I’m doing in this short period has been about making those teams do well at the same time having a look at how we structure a game, strategic plan around our development programmes, so looking at how we drive development across the game. We build the quality of our competitions right from super nine all the way to our Get In Rugby (G.I.R.) and Quick Rip competitions, so looking at how we get quality across that.”
Mr. Hilton pointed out that it’s not necessarily about everyone playing; it’s about making sure that the programmes are run properly and the quality of the competition is high.
Despite the apparent standstill of professional rugby in Samoa, Mr. Hilton remains optimistic and enthusiastic about the potential he sees in Samoan rugby.
“There’s a huge amount of potential,” he said. “The nature of everyone on the island is that they have great passion for rugby here. It’s comforting for me to come to a country where rugby is the number one game and everyone has a passion and an opinion for it, which is great because it means people are passionate about it."
“For me, the potential is endless. We got a number of Samoans who play the game well in New Zealand, Australia and around the Pacific and also in England as well. We need to make sure we identify the quality players playing overseas and develop the game on the island too.”
Mr. Hilton has been a professional coach for the past 11 years in Japan, Europe and Queensland. He left his post with the Melbourne Rebels last year where he played a key role in the development of Wallabies forwards Sean McMahon, Lopeti Timani, Toby Smith and Jordan Uelese and guided the Rising to a league record three consecutive N.R.C. finals series.
He was the technical assistant with the Manu Samoa alongside Manu Samoa coach Fuimaono in the November tour last year.