Humble Paula Dranisinukula admits injured Fiji Sevens captain Kalione Nasoko is a better leader, but he is ready to spearhead the team’s attempt at a remarkable fifth successive HSBC Hong Kong Sevens title.
Nasoko, who was fined $250 and banned from driving for three months for drink driving by magistrates on March 29 in Fiji, has been ruled out of the Hong Kong and Singapore legs of the Sevens by a recurring knee injury. This has been a period of highs and lows for Nasoko who has just agreed a deal to join Edinburgh next season.
29-year-old Dranisinukula said it was every Fiji players dream to play in Hong Kong where the squad receives considerable backing from the boisterous, fancy dress clad fans. He said: “It is a dream come true for me. I know Kalione Nasoko is a much better leader then me but I have to take the responsibility and guide the team. It’s an honour to captain the Fijian 7s team.”
Head coach Gareth Baber has opted for the experience Dranisinukula brings to the leadership with the forward having played in 87 matches, scoring 17 tries and he captains a youthful outfit. Fiji, currently third in the table behind the USA and New Zealand have the Pool of Death to negotiate just to reach the last eight of the tournament in Hong Kong as it contains Australia, New Zealand and Kenya. “It a tough pool. Australia and New Zealand are great teams,” said Dranisinukula. “They are well known teams in the series and of course Kenya, they have been doing well in the Series. I can’t wait to see the boys run on the park and play against these teams.
“All I ask for is their support and prayers plus their blessings for the boys. We do have a young side and we have still been learning.”
The challenge of the Pool of Death has seen Australian Sevens coach Tim Walsh use a sports psychologist to help his players cope with the pressure they will face in Hong Kong He said: “It’s just having some tools to cope with pressure moments. A lot of that comes with experience, but the job as coach to accelerate all those learnings. You look at our games and you hear me talking about it a lot, within our six games four to five of them are going to come down to a pressure moment.
“A lot of guys have had psychologists and mentors and different people help them come up with those tools, but we want to further accelerate that and hopefully we can get some valuable information and tools to help us.”
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