Return of the king: Betham fires Samoa

(IRB.COM) Tuesday 25 June 2013  
 Return of the king: Betham fires Samoa
Blast from the past: Stephen Betham is back as Samoa Sevens head coach

Success is no stranger to Stephen Betham.

Three years ago he led Samoa to the IRB Sevens World Series crown, an amazing achievement for the small island nation.

More recently, since taking over the reins as the Manu Samoa national team head coach, he has masterminded recent victories in South Africa against both Scotland and Italy to climb to seventh in the IRB World Rankings.

Now, after a stop-start season on the HSBC Sevens World Series, the powers-that-be have determined that Betham will take back the reins as interim coach for this World Cup, straight off the back of the 15-a-side Series in South Africa.

There is a steely determination in Betham, though, and one senses that the softly-spoken coach is relishing the chance to guide them to a first-ever victory in the RWC Sevens.

"It's a great honour to be back. It wasn't an easy decision but it's good to be back and I think I still have a little more to offer. I haven't been gone that long and a World Cup only comes round once every four years," he said.

"Rugby Sevens brings its own pressures, it's an entirely different rugby format from 15s, but it's a one-off tournament, we're not looking for points. Every match is like a test match and you can't afford to slip up at all."

In the last Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2009 Samoa defeated England in the quarter-finals but lost to eventual champions Wales in the semi-finals. Betham has had very limited time to mount this campaign, which has to a large extent dictated his team selection.

"We have a few older heads back and that is due to the short period of time I have with the team. So I've opted for a few old heads to come back, like Uale Mai. They are players who I've coached in the past and that makes it easier because they know the game plan, the systems and patterns and I think with such a short period of time that's what we need.

"Afa (Aiono) will captain the side and I think having the experienced players around him has taken the pressure off him. He doesn't need to worry about all the behind the scenes things, he can just get on with the on-the-field captaincy, he has the support of all the players."

Samoa line up in Pool C of the men's competition against Zimbabwe, the Philippines and Kenya.

"Zimbabwe will be hard to beat, they always come out well. We don't know much about the Philippines but I'm sure they'll put up a good fight with Al Caravelli as their coach, and Kenya's been one of the real dark horses of the past season.

"It's a one-off tournament, every game is a test match."