Canadian sevens player Mike Fuailefau draws on father's Samoan roots

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Chosen for both Canada's 15-man team for the IRB Americas Rugby Championship and the opening stop of the HSBC Sevens World Series, Mike Fuailefau's future looks bright.

The 20-year-old from Victoria finds himself in Australia this week after Rugby Canada decided his priority was the sevens team.

For Fuailefau (pronounced Foo-lee-Fow), these are heady times as he prepares to pull on a Canadian jersey for the first time at the senior level.

He and his teammates were watching an All Blacks game this week when a message on the ticker at the bottom of the screen Down Under teased the Gold Coast Sevens.

"I got pretty excited seeing the tournament I was playing in was playing on a major game like that," he said from his Brisbane-area hotel.

"There's a good buzz," he added.

The six-foot-one, 220-pound Fuailefau has rugby in his blood. His father Joe played inside centre for Samoa "a long time ago, way back," according to Mike.

His father met his Canadian mother while both were doing missionary work and eventually moved to Canada.

While Mike does not have Samoan citizenship — he could get it if he applied — he says his father has instilled in him the pride and ethos of the Pacific Islanders' approach to rugby.

Fuailefau Jr. is slated to visit Samoa this Christmas for the first time to meet family. He also has relatives on the Gold Coast.

On the rugby field, he enjoys both the seven and 15-man versions of the game.

"I love playing both," he said. "This is really my first sevens experience with a team of this calibre, so this is a great experience for me.

"But most of the rugby I've played is 15s. I'll always love 15s."

A centre like his father in the 15-man game, he plays forwards in sevens.

Other youngsters on the Canadian squad are 18-year-old Justin Douglas and 19-year-old Lucas Hammond. Fuailefau and Hammond played on the national under-20 team together.

Veterans include captain Nanyak Dala, Phil Mack, Ciaran Hearn and Chauncey O'Toole.

Canada, restored as a core member on the nine-stop sevens circuit, opens play Saturday in a pool with defending champion New Zealand, 2008-09 series winner South Africa and the U.S.

For Canada, it's a new sevens start — with the ultimate goal of qualifying for the 12-team Olympic field in 2016 when the sport makes its debut.

The Canadians played on just five stops of the circuit last season but regained core status on the expanded series along with Spain and Portugal at a qualifying tournament in Hong Kong in March.

They were to compete on a 10-stop circuit, but the schedule has been reduced to nine with Argentina's decision not to host an event.

The Canadian men defeated the U.S. 26-19 in August in Ottawa to win the North American Caribbean Rugby Association qualifying event for the World Cup Sevens in Moscow next June.

A third-year student at the University of Victoria, Fuailefau is taking a break from his schoolwork to focus on rugby.

"I couldn't put 100 per cent into both and I didn't want to take anything away from my rugby," said Fuailefau, who trains in Victoria with other carded members of the rugby team.

Canada, fielding a squad of domestic players, opens play Friday in the ARC against a reserve Argentine side in suburban Victoria. The tournament also features a domestic U.S. side and Uruguay.

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Canada (with team and hometown)

Mike Fuailefau, Castaway Wanderers RFC, Victoria; Thyssen de Goede, James Bay AA, Courtenay, B.C.; Nanyak Dala (capt.), Castaway Wanderers, Saskatoon; John Moonlight, James Bay AA, Pickering, Ont.; Justin Douglas, Abbotsford RFC, Abbotsford, B.C.; Sean Duke, University of Victoria, Vancouver; Phil Mack, University of Victoria, Victoria; Jeff Hassler, James Bay AA, Okotoks, Alta.; Harry Jones, Capilano RFC, North Vancouver; Ciaran Hearn, Castaway Wanderers RFC, Conception Bay South, N.L.; Lucas Hammond, Toronto Nomads, Toronto; Chauncey O’Toole, Belle Isle RFC, Belle Isle, N.B.

Coach — Geraint John

Manager — Brian Hunter

Organizations: HSBC Sevens World Series, All Blacks, University of Victoria North American Caribbean Rugby Association World Cup Sevens

Geographic location: Canada, Victoria, Samoa Australia U.S. Brisbane Gold Coast South Africa Spain Portugal Hong Kong Toronto Argentina Ottawa Moscow Uruguay Saskatoon Pickering Abbotsford Vancouver Okotoks North Vancouver Conception Bay Belle Isle

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