Sevens guru Sir Gordon Tietjens is back in Samoa and he is not wasting time.
At the Apia Park yesterday, the work was already cut out for the Coach of the Manu Samoa Sevens team with the first trials, featuring local and overseas-based player.
It is the latest step in the team’s preparations as Sir Tietjens looks to improve Samoa’s 15th place on the World Rugby Sevens Circuit.
People who know the top kiwi coach would know fitness is a key part of his repertoire.
“It’s all about being sevens fit,” he told the Samoa Observer.
“I’m looking at all the skills set area and getting to know each other because when you’re in a trial situation, you quite often get players that individually want to do everything on their own and that doesn’t really necessarily work for the team essence."
“I’m looking for smart decision makers, guys that make good decisions and generally that always dictated by the fitness level.”
During the break, the core members of the squad from last year had a programme to work from. Sir Tietjens said he was happy with what he has found coming back.
“We worked pretty hard throughout this week, running the conditioning areas of sevens."
“The boys who live here have worked tremendously hard over the last four to six weeks, and I’ve got a really strong bunch of kids here, they’re really physical and lot of experience.”
There is also good news in terms of experienced players.
“We’ve certainly got some big matches players out there with Tila Mealoi back in the team, Alatasi Tupou is back. They have a lot of experience."
“Joe Perez is a magnificent sevens player, he’s going to be a big, stronger and faster. He had a good year last year with Samoa Toloa."
“Tulolo Tulolo he’s coming back and it’s good to see him here with some big forwards also. We’ve also got some New Zealand based players that have put up their hand to have a crack to play for Samoa and that’s going to increase the depth. If we can get a good depth then were in for a good season.”
The ultimate goal is to build a team for the H.S.B.C. World Rugby Sevens Series.
But the team will not be finalised until after the California and the Oceania 7's in Fiji.
“I think to have a good World Series, it’s important that you start well on those first two tournaments. I need depth because there’s lot of injuries in the game of Sevens and rugby in general. So I need players that can step up to the mark."
“Malu Falaniko, I thought he’s outstanding he’s done so much work and he looks ripped, he looks fast and he’s in a total different conditioning now from last year.”
Conditioning, he said, is another key aspect.
“Sevens is always about conditioning which creates the culture and you can’t get away from that. In terms of physicality, Samoa is always going to be up there they will win the contest in physicality but it’s the pace of the game we need to get to."
“When you live in the islands and you go to the World Series, you want to be able to stick with the pace of the game and that is why we need to be fitter.”
He also outlined his plan as the Head Coach for picking his team.
“Those games out there this morning (yesterday) ten minutes each way were quite mentally and physically demanding on the players and they were responding well.”
The coach also has his sights set on youngsters Paul Scanlan and flyer Kelvin Masoe.
“I have heard a lot already about Kelvin Masoe,” he said.
“Obviously pace is a massive ingredient. I’m very much going to look at him and youngster Scanlan playing for Samoa A, he’s very much one I am eyeing right now and that’s going to give us that depth. Obviously I would love to have them get a crack at Sevens and have a go with these guys.”
Sir Tietjens did not make any promises but he is optimistic the team will be in a better shape this year than his first season with the group.
“It was very pleasing today, seeing players were really wanting it and they wanted it bad, the jersey means a lot to them and I always reward players that really put the work in deserves to be here.”