World beckoning for Bay veteran

By SHANE HURNDELL


Central sevens

Palmerston North

Tivaini Fomai has had a taste of the Northern Hemisphere rugby scene and is poised for a smorgasbord.

"I'm just waiting on some offers from France. There is also a chance I could make the Samoan Sevens team ... I'll be expecting to make some definite decisions during the next three months but whatever I decide family will be coming first," the father of two 3-year-old daughters, Kiera and Teiyah, said.

Whatever he decides, this summer's Hawke's Bay sevens campaign, his sixth, is likely to be his last.

"Naturally I want to make the most of it," Fomai said before the HBS Banks Hawke's Bay side's final training session in the buildup to today's Central Region qualifier in Palmerston North.

Should Fomai, 27, shine today and at next month's Queenstown nationals he could be called into the Samoan squad for the remainder of the IRB Series.

Last month the youth worker for Purena Koa Rehua Youth Services in Hastings toured the United Kingdom with the Manu Samoa 15s team.

He started and completed in the win against Canada, played the final 10 minutes of the win against Wales, and the last 15 minutes of a narrow loss to France.

"It was a great experience on and off the field. It was a good environment in which everyone respected each other," Fomai said.

During his lengthy stint with the Bay Sevens, Fomai has been in teams that have under-achieved on the national stage. He agreed this summer's squad is looking "pretty good" on paper.

"We just have to give more to each other. The talent and skills are there ... we just have to play for each other a bit more."

Fomai hasn't been contracted by the Magpies for next year but pointed out he will remain in the Bay and play for his Hastings Rugby and Sports club and the Magpies should the opportunity arise if the overseas offers don't eventuate. A regular workaholic on the Sevens scene, Fomai may be able to command a few more euros from the French clubs, who will no doubt check out footage of today's tournament and the Queenstown nationals before emailing their offers.

Hawke's Bay coach Murdoch Paewai has plenty of experience with the likes of Fomai and Adam Bradey in the forwards and New Zealand training squad member Gillies Kaka and Ihaia West in the backs. New Zealand Sevens physio staff gave Kaka a clearance on Thursday to play after a final check on a shoulder injury collected while in camp with the national squad.

With Kaka, Trinity Spooner-Neera, Michael Vuicakau and Penikolo Latu, Paewai isn't short on speed and excitement. With Trent Boswell-Wakefield, Peniasi Tokakece and Tony Lamborn joining Bradey and Fomai, there is sufficient size and power in the forwards.

Hawke's Bay must finish in the top five at the six-team tournament to qualify for the Queenstown-hosted nationals on January 12 and 13. It will be a huge upset if this isn't achieved.

With 18 training sessions and one tournament, the New Zealand Invitation in Tauranga last month completed in the buildup to this weekend, several minor injuries have been collected. Chiefs wider training squad member Tino Nemani, Sam Giddens, Sheridan Rangihuna, Zane Crook, Tamati Samuels and Timo Vaiusu have all withdrawn because of injuries.

Isaac Paewai is unavailable because of work commitments and Michael Ruru is in Australia. These players will be given the opportunity to play at the Mount Maunganui-hosted tournament on January 5.

All of Hawke's Bay's games today will be live on the Rugby Channel. They are: noon v Wellington, 2pm v Horowhenua-Kapiti, 3.40pm v Taranaki, 4.40pm playoffs, 5.20pm final.


Hawke's Bay squad, forwards: Adam Bradey, Tivaini Fomai, Trent Boswell-Wakefield, Peniasi Tokakece, Tony Lamborn.

Backs: Gillies Kaka, Ihaia West, Brad Nicol, Trinity Spooner-Neera, Penikolo Latu, Adam Blake, Michael Vuicakau.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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