7s to 15s transition will impact series outcome

Kalioni Nasoko, right, and Jiuta Wainiqolo stop a Canadian rep during their Olympics match in Tokyo, Japan this year. Picture: TRYSPORTSIMAGES

The release of majority of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Games gold medal winning stars from their 7s contract to transit into the 15s arena could have a drastic effect on the Fijian 7s team’s bid to win the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series next year.

That’s the view of former Fiji 7s coach Peni Veidreyaki after the Fiji Airways Fijian 7s exit from the cup competition following losses to France and Spain in the second series in Dubai this weekend.

Fiji went down France 17-22 and then surprisingly to Spain 14-33.

The side finished off their pool campaign with a 40-7 victory against Argentina but this was not enough to ensure the side a spot in the cup quarter-finals.

Veidreyaki faced a similar scenario in 2000 when he was forced to take a second string team to the final event of the then called International Rugby Board Sevens Series after former Flying Fijians coach the late Greg Smith roped in most of his players for the Pacific Rugby Cup commitments.

Back then with a tight race for the title against New Zealand, the Fijian 7s team just needed to beat Argentina in the quarter-final to lift the inaugural title but eventually went down 35-21 ending up six points short of the victorious Kiwi’s.

Veidreyaki said it took former Fiji 7s coach Gareth Baber nearly three years to build a winning combination to win the 2018-2019 series after his appointment in 2016.

He said under Baber’s tenure Fiji failed to win the Commonwealth Games gold medal in 2018 in Australia and the Rugby World Cup Sevens in the United States.

“Why take 11 new players when members of the Tokyo gold medal winning team could have been retained for the two major events next year,” questioned Veidreyaki.

“It takes time to groom players for an international environment especially when you have seven players in the squad who haven’t even gone abroad.

“Only a few players from the winning squad in Tokyo got overseas contracts while others have been contracted by the Fijian Drua.

“A winning combination cannot be built overnight and in rugby, the 7s game and 15s game are separate codes which requires special coaching techniques especially at the highest level.

“The Commonwealth Games will be held in Birmingham, England from July 28 to August 8 while the RWC 7s will be held in September 9-11 in South Africa.

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