Samoa is targeting a top four finish on the men’s World Sevens Series, which kicks off tonight in Dubai.
The Manu 7s won the title back in 2010 but have not finished higher than eighth in the past five World Series campaigns.
The top four teams in the upcoming season will earn automatic qualification for the 2020 Olympics and head coach Sir Gordon Tietjens said Samoa is determined to make it to Tokyo.
“For us it’s a big year because Samoa was certainly disappointed we missed out on qualification for the (2016 Rio) Olympics a number of years back now,” he said.
“So that’s our real goal is to obviously try and make the top four to seek automatic qualification but if that wasn’t the case then we’ll still be going to tournaments to prove ourselves to make it into that particular tournament in 2020.”
Samoa finished 10th on the World Series in 2017/18, an improvement on the 13th place finish in Sir Gordon’s first season in charge.
David Afamasaga will captain a team with an experienced core, including the return of former captains Tila Mealoi and Alatasi Tupou from injury and suspension, as well as newcomers Johnny Samuelu, Ricky Pauli Ene, Della Neli, John Vaili and Kirisimasi Savaiinaea.
Samoa finished third at the Oceania Sevens three weeks ago and Sir Gordon Tietjens said their preparation for the new season has been good.
“The team have gelled pretty well. It’s a team certainly that are going to be very energetic, very keen and they’ve trained well,” he said.
“Tila Mealoi’s come back into the frame – he’s performed particularly well and he’s certainly putting his face forward after missing a few tournaments last year.”
“Alatasi Tupou, who didn’t go to Fiji as well, is back in the side and of course I’ve got a new captain in David Afamasaga, who also didn’t play in Fiji as well,” Tietjens said.
“So it’s promising and with a couple of new players that have certainly been performing well: guys like Kirisimasi (Savaiinaea), who’s a youngster from Savaii in Samoa who had a particularly good tournament for such a youngster in the Oceania tournament, and also Johnny Vaili, who played very well for Samoa A in Argentina…and someone that I saw play particularly well at a tournament in Auckland only a few weeks back.”
Tofatuimoana Solia and Malu Falaniko were unavailable for selection after injuring themselves in Suva but Sir Gordon said that presents another opportunity for young player to impress on the global stage.
“One of my real goals was about building depth, particularly on the islands in Samoa, and we’ve had five players we’ve selected this year from Savaii who have come into the frame that played particularly well in the Bluesky tournaments that went over a period of four weeks,” he said.
“I suppose they were a step ahead of everyone else because they were superbly fit and they’ve now made it into the Samoan sevens team and some of them are playing their first tournament in a World Series.
“Amongst that with some of the proven players that I have in the side in Tomasi Alosio and Alamanda Motuga – players who have played a number of games for Samoa – it’s promising and we are certainly looking for avery very good start in the tournament, particularly against Argentina.”
“The fitness levels and the work that we’ve put in over the last few weeks will hopefully be rewarded with a good performance in this tournament.”
Samoa kick off their Dubai campaign against Argentina and will also face defending series champions South Africa and Zimbabwe in pool play.
(Source:Radio New Zealand)