Sevens team primed for battle

Manu Samoa Sevens coach, Sir Gordon Tietjens, says his team is in a good frame of mind as they tackle the next two legs of HSBC World Sevens Series in Last Vegas and Vancouver.

Samoa kicks off its Las Vegas campaign against the home team, USA, tomorrow but Tietjens believes they have done the hard work. 

More importantly, he is hoping the return of some experienced players will inspire his team.

Former captain Faalemiga Selesele is back on the World Series, after impressing at the Brisbane Global Tens, while Afa Aiono has recovered from injury and assumes the captaincy, freeing up Tila Mealoi to focus on playing. 

Alex Samoa has also forced his way into the team for the first time this season. 

The Manu are a lowly 13th after the first four rounds of the World Series and Sir Gordon Tietjens said the addition of some seasoned campaigners is a timely boost. 

“They’ve got lots of sevens experience and they’re very good players and they’re only 27 and 28 respectively so having them come back into the fold to work with these younger players, it’s a real positive,” he said. 

“Faalemiga Selesele I thought last year was just simply outstanding for Samoa and for him to not be allowed to play in these first two tournaments because of a provincial team’s requirements is quite tough. 

“But he went away and played for Samoa in the Tens and came back and played last weekend in the [Marist Sevens] tournament for his club Moataa, and I selected him on that and he’s really excited. 

“Afa Aiono, who we all know is a very talented sevens players, he’s been out through injury and he’s just come back in,” said Tietjens. 

“He’s also now my captain so he brings back with him a lot of experience as well. 

“And Alex Samoa - another player from last year - he’s into his first two tournaments,” he said. 

“He’s also quite an acquitted sevens player, played well for Samoa last year and he’s come back and raring to go.” 

Sir Gordon Tietjens said the team for Las Vegas and Vancouver offers more balance.

As for the USA, head coach Mike Friday has named Ben Pinkelman and Maka Unufe in his squad for Vegas.

One notable omission is speedster Carlin Isles, who is out for the rest of the 2016-17 series as he undergoes knee surgery. Madison Hughes will captain the side while Walt Elder is the sole debutant. 

The men’s Eagles are currently eighth in the series standings with their best finish coming at the HSBC Sydney Sevens in early February. 

“These next two legs will define the season,” Friday said. 

“The squad have got their head down to ensure that we represent the country in the best way we can in the circumstances. We have battled hard to be where we are and if we can be successful in these next two legs - if we can remain healthy as a squad - we can hopefully kick on for the rest of the season and maintain USA as contenders on the sevens series.”

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