Dubai first step to Olympic sevens qualifying

With the first round of the 2018-19 World Rugby Sevens Series beginning on Friday night Samoan time in Dubai, the Manu Samoa 7s are entering a new era.

That’s the view of Samoa Rugby Union general manager of high performance Zane Hilton.

His job is to identify players and provide oversight for all Samoa’s national teams, including the Manu Samoa 7s.

“There are quite a few new faces, it’s very much a rebuilding period for coach Sir Gordon Tietjens and his group,” he said.

A whole new group of Manu Samoa 7s players have been contracted for the upcoming season.

“It’s the beginning of a 15 month window before the final Olympic qualifying tournament,” said Hilton.

“Our pinnacle events will be that and the Pacific Games next year.”

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There are a few paths by which Samoa can qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics sevens tournament.

The top four performing teams on the 2018-19 World Rugby Sevens Series all receive Olympic berths, as do the champions of the six continental confederation tournaments (including the 2019 Oceania Sevens).

If Samoa finished 2nd or 3rd at the Oceania Sevens, they’d play off against 11 other teams in a qualifying tournament for the final spot at the Olympics.

Manu Samoa 7s finished 3rd at this year’s Oceania Sevens, and both Sir Gordon Tietjens and Zane Hilton have highlighted the importance of consistency over the next 15 months.

“With a new squad, it may take time for them to gel,” Hilton said.

“At the Oceania 7s they were inconsistent at times, but then came out and did really, really well against Australia.”

Samoa beat Australia 14-12 in the Oceania 7s 3rd place playoff, losing just once over the tournament to eventual winners Fiji. 

“There’s some exciting new players in that group – Ricky Ene, Johnny Vaili, these are good local boys,” said Hilton.

The Manu Samoa 7s bring five new players into the squad that played at the Oceania 7s for the first two rounds of the 2018-19 World Rugby Sevens Series at Dubai and Cape Town.

Debutants Vaili and Loveni Enari, as well as Siaosi Asofolau, Della Neli and Alatasi Tupou come in.

They replace Va’afauese Apelu-Maliko, Fa’afou Amate, Malu Falaniko and Tofatuimoana Solia.

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