Alan Ah Mu
APIA: FRIDAY 17 JANUARY 2014: Glimpses of a promise of better things to come were provided by Manu Samoa 7’s at their last tournament – in South Africa last year.
They claimed heartwarming wins over Fiji and England.
“The team clicked in South Africa,” said coach Viliamu Punivalu.
“Hopefully we can build on that,” Punivalu said.
Manu Samoa 7’s were farewelled today as they head for the Las Vegas leg of the IRB World Series on 24 – 26 January then the Wellington leg on 7 – 8 February.
Vegas will be Punivalu’s fourth tournament in the World Series as coach.
He described his side as a developing one.
“The first leg was a disaster,” he said of the Gold Coast leg.
From a sad rank of 9th in the world Manu Samoa has climbed back to 7th place.
Selections have been fairly stable since though.
The latest team features the return of speedster Tom Iosefo from injuries that plagued him last year.
The sole newcomer to the blue jersey is exciting young forward Keli Meafua, who Punivalu plugged from Auckland after the player turned out for the New Zealand province in the Bailey National 7’s in Rotorua.
He was named player of the tournament at the Mt Wanganui National 7’s in New Zealand.
“Keli is fast and strong and a great prospect for the future,” said Punivalu.
“He hasn’t played sevens at this level before, but he certainly has the skill set and I am sure he will do well,” he said.
“The return of Iosefo is a benefit as he has some wonderful skills, brilliant step, acceleration, fitness; he has got it all, so the future is in front of him and I am expecting big things from him because he oozes a lot of talent.”
Patrick Fa’apale drops to the ranks of the non-travelling reserves.
Shin problems cut short training time for the former captain who is expected to regain full fitness in time for consideration for Wellington.
Falemiga Selesele is also missing from the side named today.
Punivalu said Selesele has opted to grab a place in the Samoa A side in an attempt to secure a contract.
Absent after South Africa is Richie Ah Chong who has struggled for form, he said.
But Ah Chong intends to fight for a comeback to the side for the Hong Kong and Japan tournaments.
Samoa is pooled with England, Portugal and Uruguay in Las Vegas.
“There are no easy games in the pool in any tournament now,” said Punivalu.
“We are a little underdone as some teams have already been playing in tournaments so that is the challenge for us … to get up and get into it early and we really need to start well,” he said.
Manu Samoa 7’s:
Forwards – Lio Lolo (Apia/Falelima); Fale So’oialo (Vailima/Vaipuna); Oneone Fa’afou (Vaipuna); Levi Asi Fa’amatala (Vailele/Sala’ilua); Keli Meafou (Sailua/Lalomauga).
Backs – Vavao Afemai (Lauli’i/Vaiala); Sani Niue (Vailele/Iva); Alatasi Tupou (Samusus/Vaipuna); Reupena Levasa [C] (Vailele/Uafato); Foma’i Ah Ki (Magiagi); Tulo Tulolo (Mulifanua/Tulaele), Tom Iosefo (Lotopu’e).
Non travelling reserves – Patrick Fa’apale (Vaipuna); Samoa Toloa (Mulifanua/Sa’asaai).
Management: Coach – Viliamu Punivalu; Manager – Malo Nofoagatotoa; Physiotherapist – Mathew Amituana’i.