Same pool, new face – Manu Samoa 7s arrive in Vancouver

The Manu Samoa 7s have drafted in some new blood to try and help them succeed in Vancouver this weekend where they failed in Los Angeles.

In a twist of fate, Samoa have been drawn the U.S.A., Australia and Scotland as pool-play opponents for the second World Rugby Sevens Series tournament in a row.

John Vaili was the 13th man for the Los Angeles Sevens, but didn’t take the field and has been ruled out of the Vancouver leg beginning on Sunday Samoan time.

Vaili has been replaced by newcomer Malachai Unasa-Knox, who plays for Northern United in Wellington and was a member of the Wellington Lions development squad last year.

The potential debutant was spotted by Manu Samoa 7s coach Sir Gordon Tietjens at a sevens tournament in New Zealand, after which the coach invited him to play for Moata’a at the Marist International Sevens last month as a trial of sorts.

Tietjens will be hoping Unasa-Knox can add something to a squad starved of confidence, languishing in 13th place overall on the World Rugby Sevens Series after suffering four bottom-five finishes in a row.

Australia and the U.S.A progressed to the Cup quarterfinals from last week’s pool stage, and there is little reason to believe anything should change in Vancouver for the sixth and seventh ranked sides overall.

Samoa should be able to count on another win over Scotland though, and could leapfrog them and Kenya to take 11th place depending how the weekend goes.

The Manu’s first game is against the U.S.A. at 7 am on Sunday Samoan time, before they play Australia at 10:34 am then Scotland at 1:24 pm, with the finals all set to be played next Monday.

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