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New Samoa Sevens coach takes a long-term view
03:27 am GMT+12, 09/09/2020, Samoa

It has been a decade since the Manu won their only World Series title, and four years since the men in blue won a tournament on the world circuit.
 
The most capped player in Manu Samoa history, Muliagatele succeeded Sir Gordon Tietjens as head coach of the Manu Sevens last month.
 
Muliagatele, who was an assistant when Samoa won the Paris Sevens in 2016, said his focus was on developing a squad of local players to compete on the world stage.
 
"I think that's what we lack here in the island is the depth," he said. "So we put together a plan to develop a pool of players, so that when you play well for the sevens and the Manu Samoa coach wants some of the players and then they move on there is a pool of players to fit in and to cover all those players."
 
"Competing in the World Series is not that easy but I'm sure if these players will play a lot in that tournament and they learn a lot and they cope for the World Series, I'm sure after one or two years Samoa will be at the top of the World Series."
 
45 players were named in an extended training squad last week, following the end of the Samoa National Sevens Series.
 
A former Samoa A and Manumā Samoa head coach, Muliagatele said the raw ingredients were, but a lack of experience at the top level showed.
 
"That's why I select the 45 talented players to bring into the high performance unit to develop and build some caps, then looking for a tournament to compete," he said.
 
"There's a lot of talent here in Samoa but they need to develop some caps here before they compete in the World Series."
 
The door was also open for overseas-based hopefuls. While the Covid-19 pandemic means only Samoa-based players can take part in the training camps, Muliagatele said New Zealand based players such as Losi Filipo and Alamanda Motuga remain very much in his thoughts and will be welcomed back when travel resumes.
 
Meanwhile, the Samoa Rugby Union believes former sevens international Gordon Langkilde has earned his recall to the national team, more than two years after he assaulted three players at the World Cup in San Francisco.
 
The 25 year old was required to pay compensation after pleading guilty to misdemeanour charges, and agreed to withdraw from playing all rugby for a year.
 
His suspension ended in April Muliagatele Brian Lima said he deserves a second chance after impressing for the A'ana Chiefs.
 
"I think he's learned a lot from what he's done and he played in the last four weeks and he played well. I see he learned a lot from that and he put his hand up - he wants to play for the sevens again," said the newly appointed mentor.
 
The Samoa Rugby Union's General Manager of High Performance, Seumanu Douglas Ngau Chun, said Langkilde had learnt his lesson and they fully supported his selection.
 
"We've invested a lot on Gordon and we've noticed, we've been monitoring his performance since," he said.
 
"When he was suspended he was involved with a lot of anger management and also alcohol courses around the island and also his club, A'ana Chiefs, were very helpful to us in monitoring Gordon's performance."
 
When the new Manu Samoa can be put to the test remains to be seen, however, with the pandemic throwing the calendar into all kinds of confusion. The Oceania Sevens has been cancelled, as has the first four rounds of the World Series.
 
The Manu are also still chasing qualification for the Tokyo Olympics and Lima was preparing his players with an eye towards the final repechage event in the month prior to the rescheduled Summer Games.
 
"There's no tournament coming up but the focus now is to train these boys and develop and get some caps for any tournament coming up for World Rugby and the World Series," he said.
 
"I think the main focus is to develop these boys by the time of the repechage in June and that's our aim is to qualify for the Olympics."
 
Talk of possible regional tournaments in New Zealand and Fiji remain exactly that at this stage, with Covid set to keep borders firmly closed for the foreseeable future.
 
Lima intends to split his 45-man training squad into four teams that will square off in a series of inter-squad matches over the coming weeks, with the prospect of wearing the blue jersey in 2020 still something of a pipe dream.
 
If that happens, he said he would jump at the chance to test his players against international opposition. But for now, there's plenty of work to do.

SOURCE: RNZ PACIFIC/PACNEWS


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