Samoa, the World Sevens Series champions, have the British immigration system to thank for being able to call on the services of the outstanding player in the sevens game this weekend.
Pesamino's Sale delay a big boost for Samoa
DUBAI // Samoa, the World Sevens Series champions, have the British immigration system to thank for being able to call on the services of the outstanding player in the sevens game this weekend.
Mikaele Pesamino earned a move to the English Premiership side Sale Sharks this summer on the back of his eye-catching form in rugby's abbreviated format.
His tries provided the platform for Samoa's maiden world series title campaign last term, but he had been expected to miss this season because of his move to the UK.
However, he has yet to play for Sale and has been handed a sevens reprieve until the New Year because of visa issues. Pesamino has to sit an English exam in January as part of his application for a work visa, and is not able to play for the Sharks in the meantime.
It means he is available for Samoa sevens in the opening two legs of the series - in Dubai this weekend and George, South Africa, next week - providing a fillip for his side, as well as the spectators at The Sevens.
"All I know is that he signalled before leaving that he wanted to play sevens," Stephen Betham, the Samoa coach, said. "I kept tabs on his situation through the trainers of the [Samoa 15s side]. They said he was coming here, so as far as I was concerned he was available."
Sale were happy to release the winger in order that he maintains his match fitness. They will also be able to keep an eye on him in Dubai, as Kingsley Jones, their director of rugby, is due to play for the Wooden Spoon charity side in the International Veterans tournament.
Even with Pesamino's presence, the Samoans will have to cede the favourites tag for this weekend's IRB tournament to New Zealand, the defending Dubai champions.
New Zealand won gold at the recent Commonwealth Games in Delhi, and, despite making six changes to their squad for the Dubai Sevens, they remain the team to beat.
"We have a lot of confidence coming off the Commonwealth Games," Gordon Tietjens, the New Zealand coach, said. "It was great to win, but we have another job to focus on now, and that is to do well in Dubai."
The only leading side who have managed to retain the majority of their squad from last season are England. Seven of their 12-man squad are centrally contracted to England sevens, and Ben Gollings, their captain, hopes familiarity will breed success.
"Consistency is the recipe for success," Gollings, the leading point scorer in the history of the IRB sevens series, said. "Looking at Samoa, they have played together for the past four years. They have always been there or thereabouts, then last year they hit their stride. I'm hoping that will be the same for us."