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Fiji 7s turns focus to Hong Kong title, drawn to face NZ in pool stage
6:12 pm GMT+12, 13/03/2017, Fiji

The Vodafone Fiji 7s team now turns it focus on defending the Hong Kong title in next month.

Coach Gareth Baber says the players will get time to regroup before the preparation for Hong Kong begins in a weeks’ time.

“They love Hong Kong and obviously that will give us a boost moving into that as well, it’s like a home ground for Fiji so we are looking forward to go in there and obviously we will make sure that we can get our prize again.”

Meanwhile, a visit to Hong Kong could just be what Olympic champions Fiji and coach Gareth Baber need to finally get their first win in the World Rugby Sevens Series this season.

The Fijians, however, face an early showdown with New Zealand after the two powerhouse teams were drawn together in the pool stage of next month's Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.

After six rounds of the 10-leg series, Fiji still have to win a tournament - an unusual barren spell for the Islanders, especially coming after their gold medal- winning campaign at the Rio Olympics.

However, they have always conjured up something special for Hong Kong, where they have won 15 times, including at two World Cups. And this time they will be returning with Baber, who coached Hong Kong before leaving to replace Ben Ryan at the helm of the Olympic champions.

Fiji need get off the blocks quickly at the April 7-9 showpiece at Hong Kong Stadium as they are in Pool C with New Zealand, Wales and Japan.

New Zealand have won 11 times in Hong Kong, most recently in 2014, but like Fiji have yet to break through this season under interim head coach Scott Waldrom.

Crowd favorites England lead the 16-team cast fresh from their success at the Canada Sevens in Vancouver. They are in Pool A with Australia, Samoa and South Korea.

Series leaders South Africa, with four tournament wins so far, have been drawn with Canada, Kenya and France in Pool B. Team USA, Argentina, Scotland and Russia comprise Pool D.

In the separate 12-team qualifier, hosts Hong Kong will do well to approach their World Series promotion quest with caution, after being drawn with Chile, Sri Lanka and Namibia in Pool F.

The winner in the qualifier will be promoted to core-team status, which makes it eligible to play with the elite sides in all World Series tournaments.
"The countries in the qualifier are getting stronger and stronger," said new Hong Kong coach Paul John. "Looking at our pool alone, Chile have had a good couple of tournaments on the series so that will be a tough match, but I think it's important to have a few of those in the pool stages.

"It will be a real challenge and it's always exciting to have the opportunity to play against quality opposition."

Germany lead Pool E, which also includes Tonga, Uganda and Jamaica. Spain are in Pool G with Papua New Guinea, Uruguay and Guyana.

In the women's World Series qualifier, Hong Kong have been drawn with Argentina, Kenya and Belgium in Pool B.

That separated them from fellow Asian hopefuls Japan and China, who are in Pool A with Holland and Jamaica. Pool C is made up of South Africa, Colombia, Papua New Guinea and Italy.

"I'm pretty happy with our pool," said Hong Kong women's coach Anna Richards.

"For a moment I thought we might get stuck in all-Asian pool with Japan and China but fortunately we were drawn in Pool B.

"We came up short last time against Argentina and we played Kenya here a few years ago so it will be good to have another crack at both of those teams.".
SOURCE : FBC SPORTS/ THE STANDARD/PACNEWS


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