28 Jan 2017

Sport: Samoa and Fiji ready for Wellington Sevens

11:49 am on 28 January 2017

There will be no easing into the job for Sir Gordon Tietjens at the Wellington Sevens, with Samoa facing a daunting line-up of matches on day one.

Sir Gordon Tietjens has been appointed head coach of the Samoa sevens team.

Sir Gordon Tietjens has been appointed head coach of the Samoa sevens team. Photo: Samoa Rugby Union

The Manu face hosts and defending champions New Zealand first up - pitting Tietjens against the team he coached for 22 years.

"We're going in there as the fourth seed in that pool, as the underdog really, so let's hope we can certainly turn it on and really play some great sevens," he said.

"It's a huge start for us playing New Zealand but, at the end of the day, if you're going to do well in this tournament you've got to play everyone and beat everyone really."

That's what we're about really - it's about one game at a time - and we'll look no further than New Zealand and then look at the others after that," Sir Gordon said.

Samoa will also face the United States and France in Pool C and one player looking forward to getting on the field is Tomasi Alosio, who missed the Dubai and Cape Town legs because of injury.

The 25 year-old is in his third season with the Manu Sevens and said Sir Gordon would a big impact on the team.

"The boys have gone much fitter than we were before and our sessions have just been at a high intensity with a bit of conditioning and a bit of Titch's specials at the end," he said.

"For a team like Samoa it's what we need - a very good coach to drive us and set high standards. Moving forward we believe there is a bright future for our sevens in Titch's hand so hopefully we improve bit by bit," Alosio said.

Fiji sevens coach Gareth Baber says there won't be any drastic changes to the way the team plays in his first tournament in charge.

The new Fiji sevens coach Gareth Baber

The new Fiji sevens coach Gareth Baber Photo: Andy Jones / Hong Kong Rugby Union / AFP

Baber began his tenure at the start of the month and said he wanted to incorporate some new ideas while keeping what .

"I suppose we're looking for is much the same, in terms of the way that Fiji have traditionally played the game and the way that they play to their strengths and create threats in the game for opposition to deal with," he said.

"One of the big elements is this weekend and throughout the tournaments will be how we develop without the ball as well so how do we create pressure on opponents and use our strengths defensively - certainly our physicality - and create work and pressure on opposition when we haven't got the ball."

Nacanieli Labalaba and Mesulame Kunavula have been named to make their series debut in Wellington and are among five players who impressed on tour with the Fiji Baabaas development team.

Captain Osea Kolinisau is one of just four survivors from the squad that won gold at the Rio Olympics and Baber admits it could take a bit of time before Fiji reach their peak.

"The reality is that there is a slight transition going on. Players have moved away from the sevens group, some new players have come on board as well and really I suppose my job is to combine the strengths obviously Fijian players have generally with the way that I like to play the game and the consistency and performance that we need to get," Baber said.

"That's not going to come overnight - that's going to come through a process."

Fiji face Australia first up this afternoon, before taking on Japan and then series leaders South Africa in the penultimate match of the day.

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Photo: Photosport