Four Replacement Players Called In to Injury-Stricken Manu Samoa 7s Squad

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L-R: Melani Matavao, Elijah Niko, Fuli Faafouina, Pisi Leilua.

Four replacement players have been called in to join the Manu Samoa 7’s following a plethora of injuries that has hit the national squad.

Veteran Melani Matavao had no time to celebrate the end of Manumā Samoa’s runner up status in the recent World Rugby Pacific Challenge on Saturday before being called to depart Samoa on Mother’s Day Sunday with Vaiala forward from Saoluafata, Fuli Faafouina.

The two local players who are part of the MS7s extended training squad in Apia were joined by Marist Auckland’s Pisi Leilua, and departed New Zealand on Monday night for the long haul 17-hour flight to Dubai set to arrive in London on Tuesday (UK time).

Pisi Leilua is a former Robert Louis Stevenson (RLS) First XV player who moved to New Zealand to pursue his rugby in Aotearoa. Leilua has played National Provincial level rugby for Northland over the past four years.  The winger was spotted by selectors at the recent Vailima Marist Pago International 7s.

Samoan French based winger Elijah Niko has also joined the team to provide cover in the backs.

As the Manu Samoa 7s gears up to face the final battle for the one remaining automatic Olympics 2024 qualifying spot, Head Coach Limā has had to deal with excessive injuries hitting the young local squad.

A squad of 14 players had travelled for a one week preparation camp in Dubai prior to the Toulouse 7s.

The team departed without star wingers Owen Niue and Tuna Tuitama which was a huge loss. Malakesi Puna Masefau, a high school student from the Tepatasi Club who put in a huge performance at the Marist Pago 7s, was called up together with power forward Faamaoni Suetena who was instrumental in the Marist St Joseph’s championship win in American Samoa.

Injuries started to hit the Manu Samoa 7s squad during the one-week training camp in Dubai.

“Two days before flying out to the Toulouse tournament, injuries hit Steve Rimoni (knee) and BJ Lima (dislocated elbow) who have returned to see specialists in New Zealand and were replaced by Taleta Tupuola (France).”

“The Toulouse 7s was our hardest tournament yet, with players incurring injuries and Taunuu Niulevaea was handed a 3 match ban due to a high tackle in our first pool game against Ireland..”

The side has also lost the ever so reliable Paul Scanlan, who sustained a serious shoulder injury in the second pool game against Japan and has been ruled out for 8 weeks.

Levi Milford has been also been ruled out with a knee injury and Faamaoni Suetena suffered a concussion in the weekend. All three players have been ruled out of London.

World Series Leading Try Scorer and DHL Impact Player Vaafauese Apelu-Maliko is reported to have sustained a hip injury while Neueli Leitufia and Taunuu Niulevaea are nuring calf and quad injuries respectively.

Maliko, Leitufia and Niulevaea all sustained injuries during the Toulouse 7s but continued playing, “and will still be available for London”.

 

 

The players have endured high intensity training since before the start of the 2022-2023 HSBC World 7s Series in November 2022 and London makes a record 11 tournaments in 6 months!

1. Hong Kong (4-6 November 2022)

2. Emirates Dubai Sevens (2-3 December 2022)

3. Cape Town, South Africa (9-11 December 2022)

4. Hamilton, New Zealand (21-22 January 2023)

5. Sydney, Australia (27-29 January 2023)

6. Los Angeles, USA (25-26 February 2023)

7. Vancouver, Canada (3-5 March 2023)

8. Hong Kong (31 March – 2 April 2023)

9. Singapore on (8-9 April 2023)

10. Toulouse, France (12-14 May 2023)

11. London, England (20-21 May 2023)

The Manu Samoa 7s management have called for national support as the team heads into the final leg of the season.

“Malo le onosai i si o tatou atunuu. Faafetai mo talosaga, malo tapuai. Tatalo pea mo lau tapuaiga Samoa a o alu atu au tama fanau i le taamilosaga mulimuli aemaise lana taumafaiga mo se avanoa e tausinio ai i le Olemipeka 2024.”

It is automatic qualification that is up for grabs. Should the attempt be unsuccessful, the Samoa 7s still has a chance to qualify through the one spot for Oceania, and again theough a repêchage round in South America.

Samoa is the Home of Taula

Brisin Manu Retzlaff-Lima