Melani Matavao boost for Manu Sevens in Los Angeles, Vancouver
The Manu Samoa 7s announced their squad on Thursday for the Los Angeles and Vancouver legs of the World Rugby Sevens Series next weekend and the week after.
Injury and the releasing of players has made it easier for coach Sir Gordon Tietjens to finalise his travelling 13, with every fit body in the squad heading to North America.
Melani Matavao starred for Vaiala at the Marist International Sevens last weekend, and will make his 2020 Series debut having returned from injury.
Alamanda Motuga is still recovering from surgery and should be fit for the seventh leg of the Series in London in May, while Tuna Tuitama has also been ruled out of the next two legs with injury.
Those knocks, in addition to others which saw the team shorthanded for their Hamilton and Sydney campaigns, make the decisions to release around a third of the squad before and during the season all the more puzzling.
Tila Mealoi, Paulo Toilolo Fanuasa, Kirisimasi Savaiinaea, Tipaula Sapeti, Pesamino Iakopo and Kelvin Masoe have all been dropped since the Manu 7s’ preseason training camp in New Zealand in October 2019.
Since he was hired, Sir Gordon Tietjens has talked about his mission to create depth on the island and have a large group of experienced players to work with and choose from, and he reiterated that desire at a recent press conference.
But among those six released players alone, the Manu Samoa 7s have discarded 268 World Rugby Sevens Series appearances from their squad, on top of releasing the previously ever-present Johnny Samuelu after the 2019 Series.
The Los Angeles Sevens affords Samoa a much needed chance to get their 2020 campaign back on track after three straight bottom-four finishes in Cape Town, Hamilton and Sydney.
Drawn in Pool C for the tournament, the Manu will first face hosts U.S.A. at 10:19 am on Sunday March 1st Samoan time, before their remaining matches against Australia (1:15 pm) and Scotland (5:35 pm)
Manu Samoa 7s squad for Los Angeles and Vancouver:
Tofatuimoana Solia - Satalo
Va'afauese A Maliko - Tepatasi
Phillip Luki – Vaimoso
Uaina Sione - Tama Uli Salelologa
David Afamasaga - Marist Auckland
Paulo Scanlan - Moata'a
Tomasi Alosio (c) - Hutt Old Boys Marist
Melani Matavao - Vaiala
Elisapeta Alofipo - Tama Uli Salelologa
Joe Perez - Marist St Josephs
John Vaili - Moata'a
Losi Filipo – Norths
Laaloi Leilua - Tepatasi
Coach - Sir Gordon Tietjens
Team Manager - Peter Poulos
Physio - Nathen Foulagi
Trainer - Keith Roberts
Analyst - Ian Tuputala