x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Samoa aim to use momentum of the Dubai Sevens win

World Cup in Russia at end of season, but New Zealand fear backlash in South Africa from the sides shocked at The Sevens

Smaoa's Faalemiga Selesele makes a run in final of the Emirates International Trophy at the Dubai Rugby Sevens.. Jake Badger for The National
Smaoa's Faalemiga Selesele makes a run in final of the Emirates International Trophy at the Dubai Rugby Sevens.. Jake Badger for The National

DUBAI // Samoa inscribed their name on the Emirates International Trophy for the first time last night, when they beat a New Zealand side whose captain is half-Samoan, and originally wanted to play for the island nation.

Almost simultaneously, Fogapoa-born Manusamoa Tuilagi, whose five brothers wore the blue of Samoa, was playing a key role in winning a Test for England against a New Zealand side flooded with his compatriots. This is world domination in all but name. And Samoa have done that before, too, like when they won the 2009/10 IRB world series.

Time for a repeat? "Hopefully," said Afa Aiono, the Samoan captain, after their 26-15 victory in the final at the Sevens.

"We need to be consistent in our performances from now on. We are trying to win it again and hopefully we can."

How good would this nation be if they ever got first call on all the Samoan-qualified players washing around rugby? More than half-decent, you would imagine.

"Our sevens players are all based in the island," Aiono said. "The XVs side selects players from overseas and there are a lot of players in New Zealand, too.

"But our players have proved they can play rugby, too, just as well as those guys."

DJ Forbes, the New Zealand sevens captain, is the nephew of Peter Fatialofa, the highly-regarded former Samoa captain.

He once aimed for selection for his uncle's nation. Rejection, however, led him to New Zealand instead, and one of the great sevens careers has ensued.

"Half my family would have been cheering for Samoa, so going back now they will have the bragging rights," Forbes said.

"I will go home and they will be telling me Samoa are 1-0 up on us. It is still a game of rugby, whoever you lose to you still come off disappointed.

"I put my hand up for selection for Samoa. When I got turned down for that, a couple of months later I got picked up by [New Zealand] sevens. I'm enjoying my time here."

Samoa have a habit of performing well in Dubai during Sevens World Cup year. They reached the 2009 final here, before losing to Wales.

With the next edition in Russia coming up at the end of this season, the wheels of the Samoan machine are clearly turning smoothly already.

It is New Zealand, though, who lead the series after two tournaments, having reached each of the finals.

"We are still ticking boxes when it comes to the world series, but we still would have loved to have come away with this title," Forbes said. "It has been a while in Dubai."

It was fitting that there was a new name on the Dubai trophy, given the amount of shocks which happened this weekend.

The presence of Portugal and Canada in the quarter-finals on Day 2 was a novelty which could easily be repeated at next week's leg in South Africa, such is their form and the open draw for the competition.

Kenya's resurgence under Mike Friday continued apace, as they took third place, ahead of France, who were last year's runners-up here.

Despite sitting at the top of the standings, Gordon Tietjens, the New Zealand coach, is fearing a backlash from wounded sides like England and South Africa, who suffered woes this weekend.

"It is going to be tough because there are a lot of teams who had disappointing performances here," Tietjens said.

"They are certainly going to want to make amends for that in South Africa, in particular the home team, England, and to a degree Fiji, too."


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