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Andrew Iroa has been appointed the new Cook Islands Sevens coach.
Fijian-born Iroa, the former national Sevens and 15s rep from 1998 to 2004, has taken over the rein from Vaivase Samania, who stepped down citing family commitment.
In confirming the new appointment, Cook Islands Rugby Union interim president Simiona Teiotu thanked Samania for his service with the national team.
Samania, who is also a former Sevens and 15s rep, guided the Cook Islands team to two consecutive Hong Kong Sevens tournaments.
He also led the team to the bronze medal playoff at last month’s Pacific Games in Samoa. The side lost to Tonga in a closely-contested affair.
Iroa says Samania has set a benchmark with consecutive Hong Kong Sevens appearances in 2018 and this year.
“That’s the benchmark that he has set and we need to aim to better that. That’s the challenge I have taken on and I’m looking forward to it,” says Iroa.
“It’s an honour to be appointed the national coach and I thank the executives for believing in me and giving me this opportunity.
“It’s my passion to pass the knowledge and experience I have in this game to our young and upcoming players. I always had a passion for coaching and I’m looking forward to this job.”
The Sevens coaching is an unpaid job and Iroa says he is doing it out of pride and passion for the sport.
He expects the same from the players.
“I want to instill that pride in the players, especially the local players. Nothing against rugby league but you cannot make the national team in league if you are playing in the local competition. They always include their overseas-based professional players.
“But in rugby union and especially in Sevens, we provide the local players that opportunity. All we need is for them to make a bit of sacrifice, step up to the challenge and represent the Cook Islands with pride.
“It’s an honour and I want these players to feel proud whenever they don the Cook Islands jersey.”
Iroa wasted no time in getting on with the job after receiving confirmation on his appointment last week.
He held his first training session with the national squad which is preparing for the Oceania Sevens Championship in November.
“Qualifying for the Olympic Games repechage tournament is the major focus as well as making it through to the World Rugby Sevens World Series tournaments in Hong Kong, Hamilton and Sydney. Therefore this upcoming Oceania Sevens is very important for the team,” he says.
Part of Iroa’s Sevens plan is grooming the next generation of players to fill the void left by the senior players when they retire.
“That’s one major part of my Sevens programme. We have a couple of senior players who are in their 30s and they will eventually retire so we need players who are already in the system to take over their places. The focus is on making sure we have a smooth transition.
“I have invited some under-19 players I took to Aitutaki for the two match series and I hope they can be part of my transition plan.”
Former coach Samania congratulated Iroa on his appointment and wished him the best in his new role.
“I also thank everyone in the Cook Islands who helped and supported me during my time of playing both Sevens and 15s as well as coaching our national Sevens team. I thanked Cook Islands Rugby Union for giving me the opportunity. I will still be around helping out the team in whichever way possible,” Samania said.
Samania represented the Cook Islands from 1998 to 2008.
SOURCE: COOK ISLANDS NEWS/PACNEWS
Pacific Islands News Association
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