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TMO Marist 7s Flag Day Tournament — last hurrah

The 3rd and last TMO Marist American Samoa 7s Flag Day Tournament will take place at the Tafuna Veterans Stadium this Friday and Saturday,  the 11th and 12th of April.


Eight local teams will play for the championship Cup and $10,000 first prize. They are: A’asu, Avele, Tafuna Jets, Marist, Nu’uuli, Lauli’i, Lalomalava, and Leone.


They will do battle against 15 teams from Samoa: Vaiala, Vailele, Vaimoso, Valima Marist St. Joseph, Vailima Pure Marist Angels, Apia Maroons, Laulii Lions, Taga Blow Holes, Fa'atoia, Satitoa, Tepatasi, Lalomauga, Neiafu - Itu Asau, Nofoali'i, and Maota Togo A’asa.


TMO, the tournament’s major sponsor is proud to feature profiles of the 15 teams from Samoa and the 8 local teams that will play.


Today, TMO presents a team profile of Vailima Marist St. Joseph's Sevens team from Samoa, 4th place winners of the 2014 Vailima Marist Samoa International Sevens Tournament at Apia Park.


Marist Samoa fields two teams


The name Marist is synonymous with rugby in Samoa not only because the game was introduced by the Catholic religious order, the Marist Brothers back in 1920, but also because through the years, many players nurtured and trained by the Marist Rugby Club, have gone on to wear the blue jersey of the Manu Samoa.


The Marist Rugby Club also organized what has now become the most prestigious annual national sevens tournament, the Vailima Marist Samoa International Sevens Tournament, now in its 26th year.


In the territory of American Samoa, the Marist St. Joseph’s American Samoa Club has organized its equivalent, the Annual Tautua Mo Oe Marist American Samoa International Sevens Tournament, now in its third year.


Marist has failed to make the cup competition in the last two years.


The reason according to Vailima Marist St. Joseph’s Head Coach, Roger Warren, is because most of their current players are young and inexperienced.


“The only player we have in the Manu Samoa Sevens team is Xavier Martel,” Warren pointed out. “The other player, Lole Tualaulelei, who was a late replacement for injured winger Tom Iosefo in the Wellington, New Zealand leg of the ongoing IRB World Sevens Circuit, has only just recovered from injury and will be traveling to Pago.”


The other two players with international experience are Meki Magele and Alefosio Tapili who played for the Samoa ‘A’ in the recent Pacific Rugby Cup in Australia.


“All the other players are young local players who have not been exposed to the international arena and it is my job to get them ready,” Coach Warren revealed.


It may be an unenviable job, but Warren has the credentials having played a pivotal role in the Manu Samoa 15-a-side as first-five from 2004 to 2008, and went on to play professional rugby in New Zealand.


“They may be young and inexperienced but I have a lot faith in them,” he said. “Some of them like Sevens maestro Uale Mai’s younger brother Sofara Mai, has the goods to become a force to be reckoned with like his older brother and I know this tourney will give him valuable experience.”


The other team Marist will be fielding in the Territory is the Vailima Pure Marist Saints, which according to Warren, is their club’s development squad made up of players as young as 18, whom selectors feel have that special ingredient to succeed in the dog-eat-dog world of professional rugby.


“We are investing our time and resources in these youngsters so that there will be no shortage of players to fill any vacancies in our senior team,” Warren explained. “And we realize that it takes time, but it’s a strategy our club supports because it’s a win win situation in the long run.”


Coached by Afa Lesa, the Vailima Pure Marist Saints team comprises rookies with the exception of Fijian player Esira Koroi, a Fijian national, who has worked and lived in Samoa for the last five years.


Despite the lack of experience of most of their players, Coach Warren is adamant that their two teams have the same opportunities as the other teams.


“We have been preparing hard for the tourney in Pago in both fitness and our set moves, so we are quite confident we can hold our own against any team that comes our way,” Warren said. “In the game of sevens rugby nowadays, there is no such thing as an underdog. So Pago, watch out cause here we come.”