Samoa's new sevens coach, Englishman Damian McGrath, knows he carries a heavy weight of national expectation into next weekend's Oceania Olympic qualifier in Auckland, and beyond that into the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
McGrath is currently rebuilding the national programme after stints working with the England and Wales sevens teams and is already well aware of the passion and pride at stake in Samoa.
"Wherever I go, going shopping, people want to know how the team are, are we going to win? I can imagine if things don't go too well, the reverse will happen, having seen how the public received the Manu after the World Cup. They weren't happy, so I understand how important rugby and rugby success is to the people of Samoa."
Samoa knows all too well what success looks like in sevens. They memorably won the world series back in 2010 with the likes of Uale Mai, Lolo Lui, Mikaele Pesamino, Ofisa Treviranus and Alafoti Fa'osiliva, but have struggled for consistency in recent years and face the daunting and likely prospect of a winner-takes-all match with Australia for Oceania’s automatic Olympic place. Beyond that is the final global repechage next June and McGrath is hoping that a new outlook and some fresh talent can breathe life into the programme.
"I'm coming in with a fresh pair of eyes. I have no preconceived ideas about who are the best players and who aren't. I will be picking on merit. I think I have proved this by the squad we've brought here. There are one or two big names who have not made the squad because they are not quite ready yet. I think in times past, teams have been picked on names and names alone."
Samoa squad for Oceania Sevens (Olympics qualifier) in Auckland: Faalemiga Selesele, Lio Lolo, Fetufou Setu Laga, Tofatuimoana Solia, Francis Ieremia, Jay Saena, Phoenix Hunapo, Danny Tusitala, Tila Mealoi, Fale Sooialo, Siaosi Asofolau, Samoa Toloa.
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