Fiji men's rugby team after their training run in Tokyo, Photo: @fijirugby
Fiji men's rugby team after their training run in Tokyo, Photo: @fijirugby

By Makereta Komai, PACNEWS Editor in Tokyo

TOKYO, 25 JULY 2021 (PACNEWS) — Fiji is aiming to repeat it historical gold medal win of five years in Rio when the men’s rugby seven competition starts Monday 26 July at the Tokyo Stadium.

Fiji won the gold medal in the men’s tournament at the Olympic Games Rio 2016. It was the island nation’s first medal in any sport at the Olympic Games.

The Fiji men’s team was the only one to have a 100% winning record in rugby sevens at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 when they won all six matches, scoring 160 points.

Fiji is the only team to have finished in the top three in each of the past nine editions of the World Rugby Sevens Series, including winning the title in 2014/15, 2015/16 and 2018/19.

Messages of support and best wishes have started flowing in including a video message from Fiji’s greatest sevens player dubbed the King of Sevens – Waisale Serevi – that Fiji is not done yet. Rio’s gold medal win will not be the last!

The Tokyo Olympics men’s rugby sevens competition starts on Monday and Fiji will take on the host Japan in the first match at 9.00am Tokyo Time. It’s second match will be against Canada at 5pm Tokyo Time and final game against Great Britain on Tuesday at 9.30am Tokyo Time.

The Fiji team went for their final team run Sunday and coach Gareth Baber is making sure the players are safe and mentally and physically prepared for the competition when it kicks off Monday.

“I think we have managed it reasonably well. I’m sure different teams here have different strategies around that but our strategy is we stick together and we don’t expose unnecessarily. There’s obvious risks about being in a village with that between 15-20,000 athletes with coaches and managers and it takes a lot of work to manage that and still be able to function.

“Everyone is masked obviously but you’ve heard there are some big cases in the village as well. We are mindful of that and keeping the team and staff safe is my priority, said Baber in a video message.

The host team Japan has restored its status as a core team in the World Rugby Sevens Series after being relegated in 2018/19. The Japanese were victorious in the inaugural World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series in 2020.

All 12 teams participating in the Sevens rugby competition have had to overcome obstacles of some kind to make it to Tokyo, with the world sevens series called off early last season and international competition drying up during the pandemic.

The Fijian players have been separated from their families for months already because of a virus outbreak at home.

After helping deliver Fiji its first-ever Olympic medal, 2019 world sevens player of the year Jerry Tuwai will be under more pressure than any captain at the tournament to deliver gold.

In their only international competition since early 2020, the Fijians beat New Zealand and Australia to win the Oceania Sevens warmup tournament last month in Townsville, Australia, to set a benchmark for preparations.

The New Zealand men surprisingly missed out on a medal when rugby sevens made its debut at Rio de Janeiro in 2016. They’re entering the Olympic tournament as world sevens series champions, knowing they need to make amends for missing the podium in Rio.

“The Olympic Games is the pinnacle. That is why we are here — to win gold,” co-captain Tim Mikkelson said. “That is what we are working towards. This team is really confident. We have huge belief in the way we have performed over the last four or five years. This team is as ready as it has ever been to perform, said Mikkelson.

Fiji is in Pool B with Japan, Canada and Great Britain. New Zealand is in Pool A with the Republic of Korea, Argentina and Australia while Pool C is comprised of South Africa, United States of America, Ireland and Kenya.

PACNEWS coverage of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics is made possible with the travel support from a long standing partnership with the Oceania National Olympic Committee (ONOC)