The Wellington Sevens tournament had a dose of unexpected excitement for Marist St Pats supporters this year after the call up of loose forward Pago Haini to the United States 7s side. There was plenty of interest once the news got out on social media with supporters keen to hear how it all transpired. We caught up with Pago to get the low down.
Pago was born in American Samoa so holds a USA passport. He was invited to join the training camp for the week in the lead up to the tournament; it's not uncommon for local players to train with the visiting squads but Pago wasn't expecting to make the actual squad. Late in the week, following an injury, Pago was pulled aside by USA coach Mike Friday and told he would be playing at the weekend.
'I went back in my room and words can't describe the feeling. I wanted to cry so bad but the boys were in my room so I was trying to hold the tears back but the moment was something special.'
An emerging force on the Sevens circuit, the USA have some exciting talent on their team including 'the fastest man in rugby' Carlin Isles and the elusive Perry Baker. 'At first I was star struck seeing some of the best sevens players in the circuit, the likes of Carlin and Baker, but then the boys were all awesome and welcomed me in the team with open arms... all of the boys were down to earth and very cool guys and they made it easy for me to fit in the team as well.'
The call up from playing club rugby sevens to the World Rugby circuit was a pretty surreal experience. 'It was probably the best experience I've had my whole life. It was different but it was something I dreamed off as a kid and it was really a dream came to life.'
While Pago obviously lapped up every minute of his time with the team he rates running down the tunnel for the teams first match at the Cake Tin against France as the best. 'You watch those moments on TV all the time and was awesome to be part of it!'
Back in Wellington after the Sydney tournament Pago is reevaluating his season objectives. The ultimate goal is to be back in the squad and hopefully be back in that environment soon, but in the meantime he's looking forward 'to wear the famous red jersey again is to bring the Jubilee back to Evans Bay'.