Fiji Rugby Chief Executive Officer John O’Connor has welcomed the opportunity for our Fijian and Fijiana 7s teams to play important lead up against tough opposition in lead up to the Olympic Games in Japan next month.
Both the men and women’s teams will take part in the much-anticipated PacificAus Sports Oceania Rugby Sevens from the 25th to the 27th of this month in Townsville, Australia.
Fiji Rugby Chief Executive John O’Connor thanked the Australian Government and Oceania Rugby for supporting both the teams during this trying times.
“I would also like to thank Ministry of Health and the Fijian Government for their support to both teams as we battle against the second wave of COVID-19. We would like to thank the Australian Government and Fiji Airways in particular for their assistance in the arrangements to fly the players to Australia”.
Australian High Commissioner John Feakes said “We are delighted to be supporting Fiji’s travel to Australia to compete in this important event which will be critical for Fiji’s preparations for the Tokyo Olympics.”
Both teams depart for Brisbane tomorrow morning and will be in quarantine until the 18th of this month before traveling to Townsville for the tournament.
O’Connor said “It’s the first opportunity the teams now have to travel out of Fiji to get to play some international rugby game time.
“Australia and New Zealand have already competed against each other, while our plans have been to maintain our training programme to ensure our players reach their optimal international level,” O’Connor said.
In line with the Oceania 7s announcement, Fijian 7s Coach Gareth Baber and Fijiana 7s Coach Saiasi Fuli have named their respective 18-member extended squad.
Baber has named a mixture of experience and young players for the Oceania tournament.
After recovering well from an ACL injury, Kalione Nasoko makes his return and joins a powerful forward pack which consists of experienced players in the likes of Josua Vakurunibili, Meli Derenalagi, Kavekini Tabu and Asaeli Tuivuaka.
Tabadamu’s Iosefo Masikau, Barbarians and Nabua rugby clubs Taniela Sadrugu, Police 7s stars Rusiate Nasove and Joseva Talacolo completes the Fijian 7s thrilling forward-pack.
Baber has named two Olympic Gold medalists in the backline, World Rugby Player of the Decade Jerry Tuwai and Kitione Taliga.
Barbarians and Nabua winger Juita Wainiqolo, Sireli Maqala and Uluinakau’s Kaminieli Rasaku also join an exciting and entertaining backline.
Tuwai will captain the side.
Baber said the balance and combination of experienced as well as young talent is important.
“The new players named in the squad have done exceptionally well here in Fiji and have won a spot in the team because of their behaviour and performance during training sessions.
“Now the big test for them is to go-up against players they don’t know and face a different style of rugby in both defence and attack, and track themselves progressively, “said Baber.
Baber added that the Oceania 7s will set a platform which will give him an opportunity to gauge the players while playing against New Zealand and Australia.
He added through its usually difficult for an athlete to understand and be aware of their fitness-form as a player.
“Through-out the trainings we have had, we introduced periods of competition where we played against each other internally, in almost like an Olympic format.
“It is a hard prospect, normally we would have had competition such as World Rugby Sevens Series to play in, where we can measure each other against the rest of the world.
“We have improvised and have done that internally and I think the biggest thing for us now is just to give the players an opportunity to play against Australia and New Zealand,” said Baber.
Fijiana 7s Coach Saiasi Fuli says that it’s been a long wait and the team is glad to get an opportunity to play against Australia and New Zealand.
Fuli has named 7 forwards and 11 backs including Olympians Rusila Nagasau, Rejieli Daveua and Viniana Riwai.
Seasonal half-back Tokasa Seniyasi will captain the side and will be helped by Mereula Torooti, Lavena Cavuru, Ana Maria Naimasi, Roela Radiniyavuni and Aloesi Nakoci in the backline.
The newcomers in the squad are Lautoka trio Sesenieli Donu, Vani Buleki, Vasiti Solikoviti, Yasawa’s Bulou Rokodinono, Laisana Likuceva and Nadroga’s Reapi Ulunisau.
Fuli said “It’s a very good time for us to go and play in a competition and play against the top two teams in the world who have set the bench mark and are the best in the business.
“This is the only way we can measure our strength, team performance and individual players whom we can select later for the Olympic Games,” Fuli added.
Baber and Fuli are expected to name their final 13-member squad for the Olympic Games after the completion of the Oceania 7s tournament.
On the eve of the teams’ departure the CEO Fiji Rugby on behalf of the management and the teams travelling would like to acknowledge and thank all the front-liners for their commitment, sacrifice, hard work and dedication in the fight against COVID19 and keeping all Fijians Safe.
Fijian 7s Squad for Oceania 7s
Fijiana 7s squad for Oceania 7s
Ana Maria Naimasi
SOURCE: FIJI RUGBY/PACNEWS