Manu Samoa Sevens coach Gordon Tietjens has named veteran Samoa star Afa Aiono and last year’s captain Faalemiga Selesele in his squad for Las Vegas and Vancouver in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
Former skipper Aiono will lead Tietjens’ side in Las Vegas, playing his first tournament since Port Elizabeth in 2014.
Aiono made his debut in 2009, scoring 74 tries in 215 matches for Samoa and was part of their 2009-10 series-winning side.
“I’ve named a new captain, Afa Aiono,” Tietjens said.
“He’s back. He wasn’t ready for the first two but he’s back from injury and played for Marist throughout the weekend.”
“That’s the experience that I need because I need to bring these younger players through. He knows everything about what the jersey means to him. I think when they won the world series, he was one of the youngsters.”
Selesele’s return will also bolster Samoa’s chances over the next two rounds, having led them to their first tournament win in Paris last year since Dubai in 2012.
Samoa are 13th in the standings and their best finish so far was 10th place in Dubai.
“If you look at the team I have, they’re a very new side. Now all of a sudden, I’ve got Selesele to come back in. And to bring those younger players through, you need a core of experienced players to work with.”
“For those first few tournaments, we’re talking about the most experienced players on this team being probably someone that’s into their second year. When you talk experience, it’s more like 40-50 tournaments.”
Samoa squad for Las Vegas: Faalemiga Selesele, Afa Aiono, Lafaele Va’a, Tila Mealoi, Alex Samoa, Joe Perez, Samoa Toloa, Laaloi Leilua, Neria Foma’i, Elisapeta Alofipo, Alamanda Motuga, Danny Kayes, Lester Sefo, Savelio Ropati.