7s approach – FRU takes drastic measures to help men’s team

Fiji Development team player Inia Tawalo in action against Fire during the cup quarter-final of the 36th Fiji Bitter Nawaka 7s tournament in Prince Charles Park, Nadi, last Saturday. Picture: REINAL CHAND

Fiji Rugby Union has set up an initiative to help Ben Gollings prepare his side well ahead of the Las Vegas, USA and Vancouver, Canada 7s tournaments.

After a dismal performance at the last HSBC World Rugby Series leg — Hamilton, New Zealand and Sydney, Australia — Rugby House has taken a serious approach to rescue the national men’s 7s team which is yet to win a title this season.

The Fiji Airways-sponsored team sits on fifth spot after five tournaments.

With six tournaments left, Fiji’s standing will determine whether they automatically qualify for the Paris Olympic Games in 2024.

The top four team qualify automatically. Twelve teams will qualify for the men’s competition — 11 spots are up for grabs as France has automatically qualified as host.

FRU has decided to prepare a pool of players that the Fiji 7s coaching panel can choose from and add more healthy competition to the squad.

Last weekend, players in the Fiji Development team proved themselves and have raised their hands for selection in the Fiji men’s team.

The side was crowned champion of the 36th Fiji Bitter Nawaka 7s after they beat a strong Kombat Uluinakau side 31-10.

FRU interim chief executive officer Tevita Tuiloa, in an interview last week said with the development team in place, that was an avenue to look at some younger players coming through.

“The idea is to add more agility, dynamic and robust players coming through the system and its not to say that the old players have been done and dusted. It just adds more healthy competition to the squad to show who is the best team that can go to LA and Vancouver and get the job done.

“More importantly for Fiji, Hong Kong is in March and Singapore.

“We would like to think that in the next few weeks, the team will be working very hard. “Now there is no easy team in the series. South Africa did a good job in the semi-final then they got carried away by New Zealand in the final.

“Everyone is up for the 14 minutes of the game, anything can happen. It is a matter of not only physical fitness but mental toughness as well.”

Meanwhile, Tuiloa said there was a review of all the teams going on at FRU.

“The national performance review is ongoing that will be done again by the (FRU) board in due course.”

He said it was a disappointing result in the Sydney and Hamilton 7s as they were expecting big things, but they didn’t do quite as well as they hoped for.

“There was a lot of pressure on the boys and Ben. As for the development team, it was a mixture of experience players such as Inia Tawalo from Army, some of the Fire players that played well in the Coral Coast 7s, a few boys from Tabadamu, Uluinakau that have been putting their hands up.

“It’s a good opportunity to see their capabilities mixing up with some experienced players who have been participating in the series.

“The idea is to fit in the structure that Ben and the management have as they move forward to Vancouver and LA.”

He said the focus was to prepare a development team during the 47th Fiji Bitter Marist Sevens tournament from March 16-18 at the HFC bank Stadium in Suva.

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