The victorious Under 18 Rugby 7’s gold medalists at the Bahamas Commonwealth Youth Games with Cabinet Ministers Loau Keneti Sio and Afamasaga Rico Tupa’i, and Samoa Rugby Union CEO Faleomavaega Vincent Fepulea’i and Board members
By Lagi Keresoma
APIA, SAMOA – THURSDAY 27 JULY 2017: The return of the Under 18 seven’s rugby team with Gold from the Commonwealth Youth Games in the Bahamas is proof that Samoa can produce the best players for its national team, Manu Samoa locally.
At a brief ceremony today, the Minister for Education, Sports and Culture, Loau Keneti Sio reiterated what former All Black and World Rugby Ambassador Rodney Sooialo said that Samoa should look at developing her own national team from local players.
“Today we see proof that we can produce good players for our own Manu Samoa, instead of looking outside,” said Loau who himself is one of the locally grown players that made the ground breaking Manu Samoa team in the 1991 World Cup.
Loau welcomed the Under 18 team at the Samoa Rugby Union heaquarters at Tuana’imato this afternoon.
He voiced disappointment over the latest performance by Manu Samoa, however, the idea that the Under 18 players can excel to the next level of rugby, has opened new ideas and strategies for the Rugby Union in “how to tackle rugby.”
“We can do this ourselves, so stop looking outside, but develop the local players,” said Loau.
Loau said that during his time as a national rep, there were only three players from overseas, and the rest of the team was picked locally.
He acknowledged the development of rugby in schools and inter club competition because “this is where the drive for the young boys to take up rugby lies.”
The Manu Samoa 7’s Assistant Coach Stephen Betham and the Under 18 seven’s coach La’auli Rudy Leavasa both supported the idea that rugby should be developed locally and from the grassroots.
Betham who was involved in prepping and selecting the Under 18 team said there is potential in our local players.
“We never doubted the performance of the boys in securing a medal, and when they won gold, that was a bonus,” he said.
The team camped for 8 weeks and Betham said they looked at fitness as the core aspect of their strength.”
“Selecting a national team from local players can be done, but it depends on the coaches views,” said Betham.
He also confirmed that the vision of the Rugby Union now is to build local players.
La’auli said he was happy with his team and he hopes for a good progress in the development program for rugby.
“I believe in developing rugby locally, as for our team, we will place them under the watchful eye of the Manu Samoa 7’s coach and assistant coach,” he said.
The under 18 team includes 5 students from Vaiola College in Savai’i, 2 from Wesley College, 3 Leulumoega College, 1 Maluafou College, 1 St. Josephs College, 1 National University of Samoa and 1 from Don Bosco.