28 November 2023. Muliagatele Brian Lima has named a strong 14-man squad for the first two legs of this season’s HSBC World Sevens Series in Dubai and Capetown.
The man who has shown leadership prowess in the past two years, veteran forward Vaovasa Afa-Sua, will Captain the team, with Paul Eti Alesana-Slater and Paul Scanlan named as Vice Captains.
The side features three debutants who are common names in local rugby sevens tournaments and well-deserved call-ups to the team after several months in the extended squad. Tepatasi’s Pelasio Samuelu-Niuula, Laulii Lions’ Pasia Tuifua and Taitaifono “Fono” Senio-Tavita will all be looking to play their first World Series tournaments.
The debutants are joined by speedster Malakesi Masefau who debuted at the last leg of the 2022 HSBC 7s series.
Motu Opetai representing Simu and Taunuu Niulevaea of Fasitoo-Tai and Vailuutai have been consistent starters in the forwards. They are joined by BJ Telefoni Lima, Levi Milford and Faamaoni Junior Lalomilo.
The man who kicked the winning penalty goal to Samoa’s Championship win in South Africa this time last year – Faafoi Falaniko returns in the squad. The mid-field is further strenghtened by the return of veteran Elisapeta Alofipo of Salelologa and Saleaula.
The Manu Samoa is pooled with New Zealand, Canada and South Africa in a new world series format that sees three pools of four and the competition cut down to only 12 teams.
The top two from each pool go through to the quarter finals, together with the best two third placed teams. That means every point of every match will count for a for-and-against tally if required at the end of pool games.
The Manu Samoa 7s squad spent one week in Auckland in training before departure for Dubai.
In the off-season, the Manu Samoa 7s squad of close to 30 players were in intensive training of strength and conditioning, including twice a week 5am starts at Tuaopepe Jerry Wallwork’s weightlifting high performance unit at Tuanaimato.
Head Coach Muliagatele says the team focused on “sevens-specific” skills such as speed, power, strength and anaerobic stamina.
“Sevens is a game of rapid changes of speed,” said Muliagatele. “Players need a wide range of skills and awareness of the game so they can react to any situation quickly,” he adds.
The results were evident at the recent Oceania 7’s tournament in Bribane where Manu Samoa 7s qualified for the Paris Olympics for the first time in history after comfortably beating Papua New Guinea 24-0 for the Oceania spot.
Head Coach Muliagatele Brian Lima’s side looked fit and sharp as they clocked up high scoring wins in all matches over the three days. The boys in blue did not let a single team score a point against them in five matches: Manu Samoa vs PNG was 24-0. Manu Samoa beat Cook Is 44-0, American Samoa 52-0, Solomon Islands 50-0 and Tuvalu 36-0.