Tietjens prizing experience in picking Hamilton Sevens squad

TA
By Thomas Airey, 15 January 2019

The Samoa rugby 7s squad for the next round of the World Series in Hamilton will be selected today.

Over 20 players have been involved in trials this past week, and coach Sir Gordon Tietjens said even yesterday there were maybe two or three spots open that the trialists were battling for.

Because of the tough pool Samoa face in Hamilton, Tietjens said he was looking mostly for experienced players to take that challenge on.

“I’m not about to chuck some real new unknown faces in there.”

However there were plenty of new faces among the trialists, including a few under 18 players.

Tietjens said that’s about building depth here in Samoa.

“Just giving them a taste of it, plus we get to see what they’ve got, and some of them have a bit of talent.”

He said it’s important to give those players that opportunity in case crucial members of the team are forced out through injury.

Most of the squad is healthy at the moment.

Only Tomasi Alosio and Alamanda Motuga are under somewhat of an injury cloud.

Alosio suffered an injury on Monday and faces a fitness test tomorrow to make the squad.

Motuga injured his ankle at the last round in Cape Town, but Tietjens said he should come through the test fine.

“He and David Afamasaga have both performed exceedingly well.”

Motuga is the competition’s leading try scorer through two rounds with 12, and was named DHL Impact Player of the Round at the last tournament in Cape Town.

Captain Afamasaga was named to the Cape Town Dream Team as one of the players of the tournament.

“They both lead well,” Tietjens said.

One of the key things Tietjens said he wanted in his squad was physicality, in order to win the breakdowns and keep the ball.

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“That’s one of the areas we are looking to improve, hunting together in the threes we need to.”

“And keeping the ball for as long as you need to to score points.”

He said it was also about giving the many speedsters in the squad space to operate.

“It’s good we’ve got a lot of pace in the side as well.”

Tietjens named the likes of Joe Perez (who missed the first two rounds of the Series through injury), Elisapeta Alofipo and Johnny Vaili as the quicker players in the squad.

The latter missed a week or so of the trials through illness.

“The challenge for him now is to get back into that sevens fitness.”

“He’s gotta play his way back into the side, that’s what happens.”

Vaili made his first ever appearances on the Series in Dubai and Cape Town in November and December.

Samoa sit 10th in the World Rugby Sevens Series after those two rounds, having been unlucky to miss the Cup quarterfinals on each occasion.

Tietjens said the performances were there, if not the results.

“Just gotta build some consistency, we’ve beaten some good teams this year.”

He said the challenge now will be getting back into the swing of things after the Christmas/New Year break.

“We left those first two tournaments of the World Series in good shape.”

“You’ve still gotta keep the body ticking over, keep working.”

Tietjens said he’d been impressed by the fitness levels of some of the players when they returned.

“Now it’s getting into game time, and that’s when it really hurts because you’ve gotta be sevens fit, and you only get that by playing games.”

He said it becomes easier to stay at that level now that the breaks between tournaments are smaller.

“It’s just that Christmas new year break when you’ve gotta have that down time, then come back refreshed and energised.”

“Now it’s a job every day.”

TA
By Thomas Airey, 15 January 2019

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