Solia and Vaili embrace their Manu Samoa opportunity
Two locally based players have been rewarded for outstanding seasons with the Manu Samoa Sevens team.
Tofatuimoana Solia and Johnny Vaili have been named in the Manu Samoa Pacific Nations Cup squad and they say that joining the 15s camp for the first time has been a challenging and rewarding experience.
The 26-year-old said their camp in Auckland last week was good, and it was exciting meeting his teammates from overseas for the first time.
“It was pretty hard training with those guys from higher levels of rugby," he said.
The loose forward from Malaemalu and Satalo said he hopes to push for a spot in the playing 23, and press his case for a place in the Rugby World Cup team.
Beyond that, he is keen to earn himself a contract overseas.
But Solia won't feature for the Manu over the next couple of weeks, having been ruled out with a posterior cruciate ligament injury.
Fellow Manu Samoa 7s forward Alamanda Motuga has joined the squad in his absence.
Their teammate Johnny Vaili agreed with Solia that it has been hard to come in fresh and meet then play with guys from around the world, but is embracing the challenge.
“I’m so excited about making the Manu Samoa 15s."
The 24-year-old from Moata'a and Satapuala was the 2018-19 World Rugby Sevens Series Rookie of the Year, but said 15s is a different story as there is less space and you are out of the game more as an outside back.
He said carrying that good form over from the Series is about mentality, and he is treating the Manu Samoa P.N.C. campaign as a blank slate.
“Coming to 15s for the first time, I’m gonna do my best."
Vaili said he wants to earn a spot in the team for Saturday's game against Tonga, as well as going forward.
“Just try to use the opportunity that the head coach [Vaeluagaomatagi Steve Jackson] has given to me.
“Play hard and play smart for our country."
Even after a potential Rugby World Cup campaign, he remains committed to the Manu 7s cause going forward.
“Guys in Samoa, they always want to sign with a good club overseas.
“But I already told the head coach of the 7s [Sir Gordon Tietjens] that I want to come back.
“I want to come back and play for my country, even though our allowance is not good I just want to play for Samoa in the 7s for the second time."