The Northern Marianas Rugby Union has hired the services of a certified coach from Hawaii to help its team that will be competing in the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa.
Sam Fesulua’i Robinson arrived on Saipan early last week and has been facilitating the group’s training sessions since coming into the island, according to NMRU president Stanley Iakopo.
“We’re taking it one step at a time. I am not here to promise quick results or a miracle, but to help them improve gradually. I like the focus that I am seeing from this group and their ability to pick up instructions quickly,” Robinson told Saipan Tribune last Friday during the pool’s practice at the Oleai Sports Complex Field.
“We have players who have never played rugby before and some who played, but stopped for a while, so this is a mixed group. Right now, we are focusing on strengthening the basic skills, like passing, running, and footwork before going to the technical side and strategies,” said the Hawaii-based Robinson.
The union acquired the services of Robinson through Iakopo, as the two used to be teammates in Hawaii.
“Coach Sam and I are long-time teammates in Hawaii. We are very close friends. He was here in Saipan back in 2001, representing and coaching the Saipan team versus Guam in tournament called True Grit. He went on to pursue professional coaching in the U.S. mainland. In Hawaii, he is coaching men’s and youth clubs. He is also running the Honolulu Police flag rugby program for the youth,” Iakopo said.
“He is a tremendous help. We are extremely blessed and fortunate to have coach Sam as our national coach. He brings with him a whole another level of skills, the technicalities of the game, and smart rugby,” Iakopo said.
Since his arrival, Robinson has been conducting the rugby pool’s training session every day.
“Coach Sam is evaluating and assessing the skills of the players. Before he came, our practices were only every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday,” Iakopo said.
Robinson acknowledged that the CNMI will be up against tough opponents in the Pacific Games in Apia next year, so the challenge for the rugby 7s squad is not only about matching their opponents skills, but also the stamina thus regular practices are a must.
“Fiji, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, and New Zealand are definitely the favorites in the Pacific Games. It’s going to be a very competitive field, so the players have to be in their best shape,” Robinson said.
Meanwhile, Iakopo said that Robinson through the help of the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs will be going around schools on Saipan to introduce flag rugby to elementary and middle school students.