The IBFC-sponsored Manu Samoa 7s extended squad of 24 players and four management departed Samoa for New Zealand on Sunday afternoon.
In preparation for the next two legs of the HSBC World 7s Series, the Manu Samoa 7s will be in New Zealand for two weeks before the Hamiton leg scheduled for 21-22 January 2023.
In an interview with SGN before departure, Head Coach Muliagatele Brian Lima said the team has been invited to play pre-tournament matches against New Zealand and Ireland this weekend.
The All Black 7s will be hosting Samoa and Ireland at their Mount Maunganui base in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty, and Samoa’s Head Coach said this presented an opportunity to build depth in the squad.
“Giving our extended squad members the chance to play against teams like the All Blacks and Ireland is an investment we have to make,” said Muliagatele. “It will pay off in the long run because there are still eight more legs to go in this year’s series.”
Himself a former Samoa 7s player whose 12-year career included reaching the semi-finals at the 1997 Sevens World Cup, Muliagatele said player depth has always been an issue with Samoa rugby but says there are ways to overcome this.
“We just have to invest in player development, and send our locals to regular high level competitions especially those that are held nearby in Fiji, New Zealand and Australia.”
“In today’s game, we can’t rely on the starting 7 anymore,” he said.
“Your bench has to be just as strong as the starting lineup, and because there are 11 tournaments in this year’s Series, our extended squad of players have to be exposed to regular high quality competition, to make sure they are ready when we have to call on them..”
Families and friends of the Manu Samoa 7s management and players packed Faleolo International Airport to farewell the team and give their blessings for the upcoming tournaments.
Currently leading the World 7s Series ladder, Samoa will be in Pool A together with Pacific Island neighbours Fiji as well as France and Kenya.
Hosts New Zealand are in Pool B with Great Britain, Australia and invitation team Tonga.
USA have been fortunate to land Pool C, with Uruguay, Ireland and Japan.
Co-Series leaders South Africa who are behind Samoa on points difference, are in Pool D with Argentina, Spain and Canada.
Sydney follows Hamilton for a three day tournament from January 27-29.
Pool A: Samoa, Fiji, France, Kenya
Pool B: NZ, Great Britain, Australia, Tonga
Pool C: USA, Uruguay, Ireland, Japan
Pool D: South Africa, Argentina, Spain, Canada