The toughest selection decision of Fiji Sevens' boss's career
Fiji Sevens coach Gareth Baber is facing the most difficult selection decision of his time in charge of the reigning Olympic champions as he finalises his squad for the defence of the gold medal in Tokyo where Jerry Tuwai, World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year, is set to carry his country’s flag in the opening ceremony.
Despite not playing for almost 15 months, the Fijians finished unbeaten in the Oceania 7s tournament in Townsville, defeating the All Black Seven’s 17-7 in their final match.
Fiji was strengthened by the inclusion of France-based Vilimoni Botitu and Aminiasi Tuimaba and they will have superstar Semi Radradra to call upon at the Olympics with the Bristol centre flying direct to Japan to link up with the squad. However, it is reported that Botitu’s name is not on the initial list of 20 players submitted to Games organisers.
Baber is understandably upbeat after the Oceania success and said:“I think we’re in a good spot. We’ve played some good stuff but we’ve been ordinary at times as well and we know that there’s always stuff to work on but we scored a good bag of tries which is what we’re always after and we’re continually working on our shape and qualities in defence.
“It’s first time we have been in an international competition, some 15 months, so I’m pleased with the level we are at, I’m also pleased with the intensity we bring to the game, we still got a little bit of more work to do physically and keeping ourselves with that mental battle we get in the game but overall it has been a good outing.”
Baber praised new squad members Sireli Maqala, Iosefo Masi, and Jiuta Wainiqolo who have complicated the selection process that he is now wrestling with. “They have really put their hands up for selection. They are working their socks off, are diligent about the way they go about their work and they show it on the field. I’m pleased across the board, the players have worked hard and worked for each other” he said.
There were injuries with Kalione Nasoko dislocating a shoulder that was successfully put back in place while Asaeli Tuivuaka is recovering from concussion. “We are trying to get his head up the way he tackles but he tent on leading with his hands most of the time but he will be ok. He will go through protocols to get back to training” said Baber.
.The Fijian men’s and women’s teams completed two weeks in quarantine on the Sunshine Coast last and have been training in Townsville after receiving their second dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine.
The men’s competition in Japan sees three of the top four placed teams from the Rio 2016 Olympic Games together in Pool B as champions Fiji will face silver medallists Great Britain and hosts Japan, who finished fourth in Rio, along with Olympic debutants Canada who claimed bronze at the last HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series event, which took place in Vancouver last year.
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