BY Alan Ah Mu
APIA: FRIDAY 22 NOVEMBER 2013: Return victorious or get the axe. Manu Samoa 7’s players and Head Coach Viliamu Punivalu were given that stern message at their farewell this morning for the next two legs of the IRB World Series by Chairman of Samoa Rugby Union, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi.
We all watch the games on television so gone are the days when players and coaches return and lie to the country saying the referee was to blame, Tuilaepa said.
To sneak off early hours of the morning for alcohol won’t do, he said.
That’s what players in the Manu Samoa 15s did at the last World Cup, the SRU chairman said.
The coach might be asleep and not know but it shows on the field, he said.
Manu Samoa 7’s defend their Dubai title on 29 – 30 November before they head to the South Africa leg of the world series held on 7 and 8 December.
Veteran forward Reupena Levasa will captain the team in these two legs.
Amongst the 10 players who were involved in the 2012-13 series are the long serving trio, Fa’alemiga Selesele, Reupena Levasa and Alatasi Tupou.
Tupou shifts out to first-five to take over the playmaker role left vacant by Patrick Fa’apale’s departure to the national 15’s.
Tupou offers more experience and speed and is versatile, said coach Viliamu Punivalu.
“That’s the beauty of (Ala)Tasi, he can play anywhere,” said Punivalu.
He said the squad worked hard in the past six weeks on correcting the mistakes which surfaced at the Gold Coast leg.
After victories with a rotation of players in tournaments in Wallis and Futuna and the Oceania in Fiji, the team flopped in Gold Coast.
Punivalu said all the work has been done.
“We plan to bring a more robust approach,” he said.
The team features two new young bloods Oneone Fa’afou, a national under 20s player in 15s, who was part of the Manu Samoa 7’s team that won the Oceania Competition in Fiji this year. The other is Richie Ah Chong.
Ah Chong and Fa’afou bring different set of skills to the team in that both are strong, fast and elusive, Punivalu said.
Samoa faces a challenging first day at Dubai with pool games against RSA, Argentina and Russia.
“There are no easy games in the pool in any tournament now,” Punivalu says.
Tuilaepa said the word is the players play well at home but become careless when overseas.
He told Punivalu that as coach he has been given full reign to pick the players he wanted.
Pick only players who win games, “Fullstop,” with any other connection to them non-considerations, Tuilaepa said.
Failure means a return home with no one to greet them at the airport and the sponsors won’t want to give them money, he said.
In conducting the prayer service at the farewell Rev. Foma’i Samuelu asked the players to consider the opportunity they have been given was from God and was thus not a small matter but an endeavour they should put everything into.
Manu Samoa 7’s: Forwards – Fa’alemiga Selesele (Moata’a), Fale So’oialo, Misioka Timoteo, Oneone Fa’afou (Vaiala), Levi Asi Fa’amatala (Vailele), Lilo Lolo (Apia); Backs – Vavao Afemai, Alatasi Tupou (Vaiala), Sani Niue, Reupena Levasa (Vailele), Richie Ah Chong (Moata’a), Tulolo Tulolo (Vaimoso).