Samoa mix youth with experience for sevens

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 05:00 29/01/2013
Alatasi Tupou
Getty Images
EXPERIENCED HAND: Alatasi Tupou in action for Samoa.

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Looks can be deceiving and so it was with Samoa's sevens team as they negotiated a couple of minor hurdles during their first day in Wellington.

Surf T-shirts and multicoloured socks were the fashion as coach Faamoni Lalomilo put his side through their paces on an undulating and uneven Raroa Park pitch yesterday.

The squad's new set of playing and training kit from their sponsors, Koo-Ga, arrives today and it appears Samoa will be looking sharp on and off the field come the weekend.

Despite the loss of some familiar faces, the current squad has an exciting mix of youth and experience.

Regulars Alafoti Faosiliva and Ofisa Treveranus have both been snapped up by European clubs, and the injured Mikaele Pessamino is missing.

But Lalomilo strikes a measured and calm figure for good reason.

"We have lost a few of the boys going overseas with contracts," Lalomilo said.

"We can't hold them back because they are earning money for the future of their families but there are opportunities for the younger ones to bring in their talent and we are confident they can do the job."

Indeed, he has recalled veteran playmaker Lolo Lui for the Wellington tournament, and with Alatasi Tupou and Rupeni Levasa there is a tonne of sevens experience.

And, of course, fire power.

Big Northland NPC recruit Faatoina Autagavaia strikes an impressive figure in the backs, while Robert Lilomaiava, who scored four tries in his test debut against Canada last November, has pace to burn.

Lio Lolo has been the team's star during the opening three legs of the world series and captain Afa Aiona has been an inspiration.

Though Samoa are back in fifth place on the world series ladder, their potential was clear when they beat New Zealand, 26-15 in the final in Dubai in December.

It all points to Samoa once again being contenders at Westpac Stadium and Lalomilo doesn't discount the "home" factor of playing in New Zealand.

"This tournament in New Zealand, and the same in Las Vegas, we can call them our home playgrounds," he said.

"There are so many Samoan people living in these cities, so we expect a lot of support on Friday and Saturday.

"And it's good motivation for the boys because a lot of their families are living here [in New Zealand]."

Samoa's first match is against South Africa in a tough pool C, including Wales and Canada.

Contact Toby Robson
Chief rugby writer
Email: toby.robson@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @TobyRobsonNZ

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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