31 Jul 2018

Sport: Manu Samoa keen to qualify more through 7s loophole

12:44 pm on 31 July 2018

The Samoa Rugby Union is keen to qualify more test rugby players through the upcoming World Sevens Series.

Four years ago Tim Nanai-Williams switched allegience from New Zealand to Samoa, playing in four tournaments on the global sevens circuit to make himself eligible for the Manu Samoa fifteen-a-side team.

Samoa's Tim Nanai-Williams is tackled by England's Piers Francis.

Samoa's Tim Nanai-Williams is tackled by England's Piers Francis. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

SRU High Performance Unit Manager Zane Hilton said the criteria has since changed, with players wanting to switch now required to compete in five tournaments in the upcoming season, which doubles as an Olympic qualifier, provided they have a passport for the second country and have completed a minimum three year stand-down period.

He said the SRU held initial discussions with players who have previously been capped by other national teams about going down the same path but it's still early stages.

Zane Hilton

Zane Hilton Photo: Manu Samoa / Facebook

"There's certainly some players that we would love to get in through that, however, it's a pretty exciting two years as a player," he said.

"If you think about it you've got the opportunity to play in a World Cup Rugby 15s as well as an Olympic year in 2020, both in the same country in Japan.

"As a player looking at a program moving forward it's a pretty exciting two years and that's definitely and opportunity we'd be happy to exhaust."

The top four teams in the upcoming World Sevens Series will earn automatic qualification for the 2020 Olympic Games sevens competitions.

Samoa's Tim Nanai-Williams is tackled by New Zealand's Joe Webber during the South Africa Sevens at Port Elizabeth.

Tim Nanai-Williams played sevens for Samoa in 2015 in order to qualify to represent the Manu. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Zane Hilton said it was unlikely they would attempt to lure any experienced ex All Blacks or Wallabies players of Samoan descent.

"I think it's more realistic [if you] look at players that maybe have only played one cap for a team and then have been jettisoned out of programme," he said.

"They're probably the more realistic players you would like to get involved because they're still going to be potentially in their prime and we would be more than happy to accept anyone who was keen to look to play for Samoa.

"That's the great thing about Samoa is that everyone wants to play for their home country and represent their family - it's very much the country's team, as they say."

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