As the last two legs of the HSBC World 7’s Series approaches, the Manu Samoa have announced three players looking to debut in Toulouse.
Head coach Muliagatele Brian Lima and his management have had to deal with four regular squad players being unavailable for the Toulouse and London tournaments.
Wingers Owen Niue and Tuna Tuitama withdrew from the side after the Singapore tournament leaving Lima with a decision to make on who to replace two of Samoa’s regular albeit on-form wingers.
Insert Malakesi Puna Masefau – a high school sensation who is still yet to finish his Year 13. The 18-year-old impressed for the Tepatasi club from Aleipata during the recent Vailima Marist Pago Flag Day International 7s.
The youngster has consistently starred for Tepatasi in Samoa’s local competition and has earned this call-up into the Manu Samoa 7’s.
Malakesi is one of the few Manu Samoa players to still be in high school when called up to debut for the Manu 15s or 7s. Head coach Muliagatele was himself called into the Manu 15s in 1990 as an 18 year old.
Malakesi was the best player in the Tama Samoa side that represented Samoa in the World Schools Sevens tournament last year. He was the only Samoan player selected in the tournament dream team.
The other two players unavailable for selection are BJ Telefoni Lima and Steve Rimoni Onosa’i.
Limā and Onosa’i, initially named in the squad, travelled with the team for their pre-tournament training week in Dubai.
However, both players picked up injuries during team training sessions in Dubai last week and have since been sent to New Zealand to undergo treatment and surgery.
Limā dislocated his elbow and will be out for 6 weeks while Onosa’i, who picked up a knee injury, is still waiting to see a specialist to determine the severity of his injury.
Taleta ‘Leka’ Tupuola of the Montauban club in France, has been called in to replace the injured Onosa’i.
The 6’1” Center/Wing in the 15s game joined the Manu Samoa 7s squad in Toulouse and will look to cover the wing position for the Manu, scarce in wingers at this time.
Extended squad member winger Paul Stanley had played an excellent Marist Pago International tournament for his Vaimoso Club, however, had also sustained an injury during that recent comp.
Fa’amaoni Jr “Ata” Suetena is the third player looking to make his debut this weekend.
The explosive forward plays his rugby in the Counties Manukau region in New Zealand and has earned the nickname “Shoulders” for his bone crunching tackles.
Ata was a key to the Marist St Joseph’s Sports Club championship win at the Marist Pago Flag Day 7s.
Samoa is currently ranked 6th on the World Series 7s table with 111 points. Australia is 5th by just one point ahead at 112. South Africa are close behind with 106 points.
All three nations have a statistical chance to be placed 4th, or 5th behind France and gain automatic Olympic qualification.
The Manu Samoa 7s vision of attaining automatic qualification to the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris is very much alive as they head to their first match on Friday night (Samoa Time) at 11:45pm.
Match Schedule in Samoa Time
Friday 12th May:
Samoa vs Ireland 11:45pm
Saturday 13th May:
Samoa vs Japan 4:26am
Samoa vs Australia 10:59pm