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Last year, the Avele Rugby Team claimed the Shield holder title for the first Rugby Union TMO Marist Pago 7s Tournament. This year, Avele’s Head Coach Tommy Elisara made it clear to Samoa News that they will not be looking for the Shield anymore, but are aiming high — that is to claim the Championship Cup of this year’s tournament.


“As you all know, Avele was the only local team on island that was awarded one of the top honors of last year’s TMO tournament, but the majority of the remaining high honors like the bowl, the cup, and the plate were all awarded to the teams from our sister island of Samoa. I know what our team is capable of, and we are not looking to win the shield this year,” said Elisara.


He added, “Days come and go and everything in life moves forward, so Avele is looking to claim a higher ranking of Shield holder from last year; we are looking to either the bowl, plate, but above all that, is the main championship cup, and that is what we are aiming for this year.”


Elisara told Samoa News that Avele too has major changes to their squad this year, from what they brought to the field last year during the TMO Marist Pago 7s tournament. “The majority of our team this year consists of many young players, and that was also one of my major challenges throughout our preparations, was to get these new players ready for this upcoming tournament.”


He said, “As we all know, majority of our Samoan youth on island are mostly interested in either football, soccer, or basketball, but hardly rugby. But I thank some of my young players, who were also part of the American Samoa Under 19 All Star Rugby Team that played in Samoa, and are also joining us this year — which kind of makes my job a bit easier from the remaining new players, who are just new to the sport. Bu,t I thank all these young players for being very committed and dedicated to our practices and preparations each and everyday.”


Elisara noted the level of competition that will be displayed this year in the tourney, which includes teams from around the Pacific region, “I hear that Samoa is bringing down quite a number of teams, not to mention Tonga, Fiji, and New Zealand are also going to be a part of this tournament. So this will be a major challenge to the majority of our local teams on island, because the level of sports that these teams are in, is way more advanced than the local competition we have on island.”


He added, “the level of competition that will be fielded this year is going to be very tough, but as of now, Avele has 22 players or members who are training to make the official roster, because when the time comes for the tournament to start, we will only be using 12 players along with 3 extra reserved players on the side, so the official number of players we have to cut these 22 players down to is 15, which is going to be another major challenge, in trying decide, who will be picked and who will not be picked.”


The head coach explained that selecting his 15 players will not be easy, but it has to be fair. “Our team age group ranges from 19 to 25 years of age, and the majority of these guys are in school with our local community college. They all know that attendance and commitment is part of the selection category of our team, so when we do make the final cut, we will be dropping players who hardly come to practice, players who come late every single day, and players who come to practice but aren’t really with us mentally, so it doesn’t matter the age of a player, what matters is fairness to those who are dedicated and committed to our daily preparations.”


In conclusion, Elisara wanted to acknowledge and thank some of the sponsors and supporters who are helping make this event possible. “First of all we would like to thank Frank Gaisoa and the Tautua Mo Oe company for being the major sponsor of this tournament, I know it was the first time ever TMO has ever hosted a rugby 7’s tournament on island last year, but it was the huge beginning of what we are preparing for this year.”


He said, “We would also like to send out a big thank you to Bluesky for sponsoring our uniforms this year and for helping our Avele rugby team join this tournament. Last but not least, we would like to thank all the local teams on island for joining in on this level of competition and for making the youth of American Samoa part of something special. It will be a good learning experience for all the new players… something for them to look forward to not only this year, but for the years to come. Faafetai tele lava.”