Sir Gordon picks his 14 for London and Paris
The Manu Samoa 7s leave for the last two rounds of the World Rugby Sevens Series Sunday with a squad of 14 players.
Only 13 players can be registered to play in each Series tournament, but Coach Sir Gordon Tietjens said they are taking an extra because of the lengthy trip to London, where the Manu 7s will play the penultimate round next weekend.
“It’s unusual for us to get through a tournament without an injury.”
The team are preemptively taking an extra player so a full complement will be available for the following round in Paris on the 1-2 of June.
Tietjens said another positive benefit of the team taking 14 is they can train against each other with two full sevens sides.
Tofatuimoana Solia will not play at either tournament as he continues to recover from the broken wrist he suffered in the first game of the Singapore round against Spain last month.
“He’s probably about two weeks away from being fit to play again,” Tietjens said.
The star forward will be a big loss for Samoa, with the coach describing his form throughout the year as “outstanding”.
“Carries well, he’s powerful, strong.
“He’s someone that’s improved, certainly over the last two seasons, outstandingly well.
“A key man for us, but someone else has got to step up to perform that role now.”
Tietjens said they are blessed with a lot of talent in that position with captain David Afamasaga, Alamanda Motuga, Tomasi Alosio and Siaosi Asofolau.
“You’ve got some guys who can step in, that have the experience to play at that level as well.”
The Manu 7s backs are bolstered by Joe Perez’s return, and Tietjens said it’s great having him back.
“He’s a real strike player for us, he’s quick, probably our best defender.
“With Johnny Vaili, Elisapeta [Alofipo], also Paul Scanlan and Joe [Perez] it gives us a lot of pace in that side.
“They can score from 60 out, they’re quick enough.
“Pace in this game of 7s is huge.”
The other notable inclusion for London and Paris is 23-year-old playmaker Paulo Toilolo of national champion club Frankie Tama Uli Salelologa, who looks set to make his Manu Samoa 7s debut at some point in the next couple of weeks.
Tietjens said he’s a high-potential player who has a lot of 7s experience, and now gets a chance at the highest level.
“His next job is to play his way into the 12. He understands the game, and I think that’s key in sevens.
“Very good vision, he’s got exceptional passing skills, and he can buy time.
“That’s one of the key ingredients of a good sevens player, being able to buy time and not be rushed, not being put under pressure.”