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Fiji relishing 'tough pool' as they aim for third gold medal in a row

By Chris Jones
Players of Fiji gather together prior to de Semi-final match between Fiji and Francia at Civitas Metropolitano Stadium on June 02, 2024 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Flor Tan Jun/Getty Images)

Fiji sevens national coach Osea Kolinisau is using the experience of double Olympic gold medal winner Jerry Tuwai to prepare his players mentally for the daunting task of trying to make it a hat-trick of gold medals in France.

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Tuwai and veteran Waisea Nacuqu are greatly helping the development of the junior players in the team as they head for Pool C in Paris where they tackle hosts France, USA and Uruguay, according to Kolinisau, a gold medal winner himself from the inaugural sevens tournament at the Rio Games.

Fiji have won the two Olympic Games sevens gold medals in Rio and Tokyo putting massive pressure on Kolinisaui to follow suit in Paris.

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The head coach told local media at one of the final training sessions before the squad is named: “We’ve been picking at their brains over the past few weeks, and we also got them to share some of the secrets of the game with the other players to help with the development of the team.

“We are trying to get them to share what it takes to operate at that level. We know France is going to be well prepared, USA is tough as well, Uruguay cannot be underestimated; we’re not taking any team lightly. I think it is good that we have been placed in a tough pool because from there we can adjust and gauge our performance early in the competition.

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“Just seeing France, the hosts, in our pool reminds me of Rio. We faced Brazil, the hosts, in one of our pool games and they came all out, even tougher than we expected. So we are expecting the same as we face France, who will undoubtedly be going all out and we must be prepared for it.”

Kolinisau was greatly encouraged by the performance of his squad at the Madrid finale of the HSBC SVNS where they finished third. “They’re finally showing the benefits of the system we put them through, and they’ve improved a lot, especially in their fitness,” he explained.

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“I’ve seen the players playing together as a team which is something we want to achieve rather than individuality.”

Gareth Baber, the consultant national programme manager 7s and former gold medal-winning coach from the Tokyo Olympic Games, has been helping prepare the squad to win a third gold medal.

Kolinisau added: “You win tournaments through defence and that’s something we want to get back. Players are aware of what is required of them, play to high level standard. The young players in the squad have gained confidence and experience after the conclusion of the Madrid SVNS; they have experienced playing as a unified team against tough opponents.

“Our lotu (spiritual) is important to us as Fijians – always putting God first; getting players to be mentally tough as our culture as a team.”

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