21 Jan 2020

Sport: Returning stars bolster Samoa 7s side in Hamilton

9:38 am on 21 January 2020

Samoa has made four changes to their squad for this weekend's Hamilton Sevens.

Former captain David Afamasaga will make his first appearance of the season after missing the Oceania Sevens and Dubai and Cape Town tournaments through injury, although Tomasi Alosio will continue to lead the team on the field.

Samoa captain David Afamasaga finds space during their pool match against Fiji in Sydney.

Former captain David Afamasaga adds experience to the Manu Sevens squad. Photo: Mike Lee - KLC fotos for World Rugby

Laaloi Leilua is also back, having missed the opening two legs to return home and be with his family after his daughter contracted the measles virus.

Uaina Sione is poised to make his World Series debut after recovering from an injury sustained at the Oceania Sevens in November, while Va'afauese Apelu Maliko is set to make his first appearance on the global circuit since 2018.

Pacific Games sprint star Kelvin Masoe and Kirisimasi Savaiinaea are among the players to make way from the team that featured in South Africa, with Phillip Luki joining Melani Matavao and Pesamino Iakopo in the non-travelling reserves, while Manu Samoa winger Belgium Tuatagaloa has joined English Premiership club London Irish.

Samoa's Laaloi Leilua scores the match winning try over England.

Laaloi Leilua is back with the Samoa sevens squad. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Head coach Sir Gordon Tietjens said the ability to make good one-on-one tackles had been a key focus in their preparation for the weekend.

"Teams are getting punished with either yellow cards or penalties and it's an area that we have to get better at and look to basically chop tackles so we can create opportunities," he said.

"Defence is everything in Sevens rugby and we're working on our systems so we're all quite obviously clear around what our defence systems and playing against teams like Fiji, Argentina and Australia in a really tough pool are going to be key for us."

Samoa's Belgium Tuatagaloa breaks through the Ireland defence.

Belgium Tuatagaloa has joined English Premiership club London Irish. Photo: Mike Lee - KLC fotos for World Rugby

Samoa opened the World Series with a fourth-place finish in Dubai but lost all three pool games in Cape Town to slip to seventh in the overall standings.

With Hamilton also hosting an official leg of the Women's World Series for the first time the format for the men's competition has been revamped, with the four pool winners advancing directly to the semi finals.

Sir Gordon said that had added some pressure.

"You have to win your pool," he said. "So that first game against Fiji is huge for us.

"It's a tough pool and I suppose it's the work you do in between tournaments and how you turn up where you're conditioned and you're ready to play and I suppose preparation is everything and that would apply to Fiji and ourselves."

The Samoan team is scheduled to arrive in New Zealand tonight.

Samoa squad:

Tomasi Alosio (c), Alamanda Motuga, Tofatu Solia, Joe Perez, Laaloi Leilua, Elisapeta Alofipo, David Afamasaga, John Vaili, Paulo Scanlan, Tuna Tuitama, Uaina Sione, Va'a A Maliko, Losi Filipo.

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