Samoa have welcomed back some key personnel among three changes to their squad for the Hamilton and Sydney legs of the World Sevens Series.
Murphy Paulo and Joe Perez will make their first appearance of the season in New Zealand this weekend, having last featured at the Sevens World Cup in July.
Head coach Sir Gordon Tietjens said their return provides a welcome boost.
“Murphy Paulo, if you look at last year he had a big Hamilton. He basically won us the game against the USA with a beautiful 60 metre try and also was a real instigator and a real handful for England as well,” he said.
“When he’s on top of his game he’s a very very good player. He’s come back really fit and he wants to prove a point and he’s made the side for Hamilton.”
“Having Joe Perez back – he’s probably our quickest player, along with Elisapeta (Alofipo) and Johnny Vaili, so we’ve got a lot of pace in the side,” said the 12 times World Series winning coach.
“Joe’s probably, out of all those back three, probably our best defender and he’s got a bit of experience now. He’s scored a lot of big tries for us at different times so having him back after being out with suspension is really pleasing.”
Sir Gordon is also set to hand a debut to newcomer Ikifusi Matamu, who has impressed in training over the last couple of months.
“Ikifusi is a a big player, he’s a powerful player, he loves contact,” he said.
“He’s been involved with Samoa A but he’s been training with the sevens team for the last six to eight weeks and he played well in the trials over in Samoa so he deserves his spot.
“I know if he gets an opportunity he will really bring that physicality to the table and he’s certainly a very very good defender as well.”
Samoa, who will face England, the United States and Tonga in pool play this weekend, are 10th in the World Series standings after the first two rounds and Sir Gordon Tietjens said the players need to be more patient with the ball.
“Quite often we get ourselves isolated and it’s not due to the ball-carriers fault, it’s generally due to the support players just getting there too slowly,” he said.
“It’s one of the key areas that we’re looking at now: reading the play and just holding onto the ball for longer periods without obviously one of our weaknesses that I identified was we got the ball turned over a few times at big moments and that’s what we need to improve on.”
Sir Gordon Tietjens said experienced duo Alamanda Motuga and Tomasi Alosio are both recovering from ankle injuries but should be back to 100 percent in time for the weekend.
Samoa squad for Hamilton and Sydney legs:
Kirisimasi Savaiinaea, Alamanda Motuga, Ikifusi Matamu, Johnny Samuelu, Danny Tusitala, Siaosi Asofolau, Alatasi Tupou, Tomasi Alosio, Murphy Paulo, Elisapeta Alofipo, Joe Perez, David Afamasaga
(Source:Radio New Zealand)