Christchurch players pushing for national team at Marist

By Thomas Airey 14 February 2019, 12:00AM

Samoa United of Christchurch, New Zealand have come to the Marist International Sevens Tournament, held today and tomorrow at ACP Stadium in Lotopa, because of the platform and exposure it will provide their players.

“For us, it is a good opportunity to bring the players over here so the coaches and the Rugby Union can have a look at them,” said team manager Vitale Ilalio.

“Because they never come to Christchurch to be honest, they just go to Auckland.”

He said there are players down there that could do the business for the national team, so that’s the main reason why they brought them.

Samoa United arrived here last weekend, and trained from Monday on, holding a captain’s run yesterday.

They travelled with a group of 18, including 12 players, and Ilalio said everyone made sacrifices through taking time off work.

“That’s the biggest hurdle for us, it’s just after New Year’s and holidays and you have to ask work again for another holiday to come here.

“Plus you’ve gotta fly to Auckland to fly to Samoa, so it’s quite expensive for us.”


Samoa United are in for somewhat of a reunion this evening, having drawn AST SCOPA in the same pool as them.

“Our coach is Mr So‘oalo Alatimu Iese, he used to play for SCOPA, and coach there back in the day,” said Ilalio.

“A few of the players played for local clubs here before they moved to New Zealand.

“We told the boys, when you get on the field just give it your best, then off the field we are mates again.”

SCOPA have recruited three Fijian players, in former national team players Pio Tuwai and Joeli Lutumailagi, as well as former wider squad member Nacanieli Batina.

Ilalio said he’s unsure what exactly the purpose of the competition is for local teams.

“If it’s for the money, then fair enough, some local clubs can import like the Fijians to play for them.

“But if the purpose is to pick the Samoan team, why not just allow the Samoans from New Zealand, Australia, wherever they live, to come an compete in this competition so they can have a proper look.”

He said local clubs bringing in imports means the Samoan talent is missing out on those spots.

“There’s no point bringing the Fijians to play for SCOPA, or Vaiala or wherever, because they’re not eligible for the Samoan team.”

Ilalio noted that it was positive to have stronger teams in the tournament, to challenge the Samoan players.

“If they wanted some tough competition, they could invite the full Fijian teams.”

Regardless, Ilalio said Samoa United are at the Marist Sevens for the first time in about 10 years, and are looking forward to the tournament.

He said with former Manu Samoa Sevens players Sam Franklin and Anthony Tailua, they will surprise people with their play.

“We’re not here to make up the numbers to be honest, you’ll see on Friday.”

Samoa United will play their first game of Pool Eight at 3pm against Lefaga, before taking on SCOPA in the last game of the day at 6:40pm.

By Thomas Airey 14 February 2019, 12:00AM

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