The Manu Samoa Sevens have been placed in one of the more difficult pools of the Commonwealth Games Sevens tournament, set to kick-off this Friday morning (Friday night in the Southern Hemisphere with a 12-hour time difference).
In a brief response from Head Coach Muliagatele Brian Lima, the five-time Rugby World Cup veteran says the team remains focused on the challege ahead, and will not be featuring in the games’ opening ceremony on Thursday night.
“The games start early on Friday, so we won’t be able to make the opening ceremony,” said Muliagatele. “It’s sad for the players to miss out, but we have to remain focused on the challenge ahead..”
Muliagatele acknowledged they have a difficult pool, and asks for the tapuaiga of Samoa to remember them in prayers.
“E le faigofie le matou pool. Tatalo mai mo le matou au.”
Samoa is pooled with England, New Zealand and Sri Lanka.
Muliagatele’s mostly young side of local players are set to face England and New Zealand on Day 1 of the three-day competition.
The boys will play England on Friday morning (Friday 11:34pm in Samoa), followed by New Zealand on Friday night (Saturday 8:04am in Samoa). The last pool match against Sri Lanka is on Saturday morning (Sat 11:12pm).
Muliagatele selected 13 players for the Commonwealth Games, with just two changes to the last Samoan outfit that played in the London leg of the HSBC World 7’s Series.
Levi Milford, who plays his rugby in France has been recalled into the squad after he represented Samoa at the Olympic Qualifiers in Monaco last year. The 20 year old is the only overseas-based player in the Manu Samoa 7’s squad, however, he did have to travel to Samoa and camp with the team in the lead-up for the team’s departure for Birmingham.
Taunu’u Niulevaea, who played his 7’s for A’ana and most recently for the Pacific Ezy Safotu side was selected into the squad after the Vailima Marist International 7s. The former Manu Samoa Under 20s representative will look to make his debut in the 7’s jersey at the Commonwealth Games.
The two new players will add size and height to the outstanding forwards trio Vaafauese Apelu Maliko, Vaovasa Afa Suá and Uaina Sione. Vaafauese and Uaina were both named in World Rugby Dream Team, following the HSBC Toulouse leg in France.
Motu Opetai, Levi Milford and Taunuu Niulevaea will give the coaching staff more depth of selection and options in the forwards for the 3-day tournament.
Co-captain Melani Matavao will lead the Manu 7’s backline with Paul Scanlan. The veterans will be supported by young guns Steve Rimoni Onosai, Owen Niue, Faafoi Falaniko, Iafeta Purcell and the smallest man on the paddock, Neueli Leitufia.
Samoa participated in four HSBC World 7’s Series tournaments this year and made the quarterfinals stages in all four tournaments, placing 4th in three of them (Vancouver, Toulouse and London).
At the Singapore leg in April, the Manu 7’s side of 4 veterans and 9 debutants shocked the rugby world when they beat England 31-5 at the pool stage.
Samoa has not yet won a medal for rugby 7’s at the Commonwealth Games.
New Zealand has dominated the Commonwealth Games medals table with South Africa winning for the first time in 2014.
Fiji has won three silver medals and one bronze.