Fuli assembles relatively new Fiji squad for World 7s Series opener

With 13 players from the Tokyo Olympics winning squad having moved on to other commitments including XVs with the Fijian Drua’s Super Rugby Pacific season debut, Fiji 7s men’s stand-in coach Saiasi Fuli has his hands full in the lead up the 2021/22 HSBC World 7s Series which opens in Dubai next month.

Along with a relatively new support staff, Fuli said his immediate focus since the squad assembled two days ago has been to help players particularly newbies acclimatize to the national squad environment, to the regime and the fitness standards that is required to perform on the World 7s Series arena.

His efforts are buoyed by the return of Tokyo Olympic Gold medal win survivour Josua Vakurinabili along with Fiji 7s seasoned rep Livai Ikanikoda who is joined by Kaminieli Rasaku, and Josefa Talacolo, all of whom were part of the national extended squad to the PacificAus Sports Oceania 7s team prior to the Olympics.

The remainder of the squad, comprise of players who had been identified from the local 7s tournaments onto the national depth squad that was put in place by outgoing national men’s coach Gareth Baber.

“We have to go through the list again, check for the best players available who are playing well locally to join the squad, so it’s a mixture of senior players and new players,” Fuli said.

“As you can see from the training today, we have a new set of players, unfamiliar faces, but this is the transition that FRU always anticipates, [following on from 2016], and now after [Tokyo Olympics] we are going through the same.”

Of the squad at training at Albert Park in Suva today, 18 are new to the environment, making the transition from local club to a high performance set up. The squad includes six players who had travelled from Viti Levu during the weekend.

“They are playing well. They have adapted well. Some players from the West and other top clubs. I know there are other good players around, and there is an opportunity for them to come into the squad on the 12 and 13 which is a tournament likely to be hosted by FRU. But, if nothing happens, we will continue training with our squad,” Fuli said.

“The challenge is for us the management is to pull through the transitition and embrace the challenge irrespective of an overseas coach or whoever comes in, we have to continue the same standard.

“And now we are about to go to the next tournmanent which is also the opening of the new 7s series – back to back tournament in Dubai and what are way to start the season. It’s the new normal, new times.”

Fuli said the next few weeks before Dubai will be critical to lift the players fitness and identify the best players to take across to Dubai.

“Good opportunity for the new boys to work hard in the next four weeks and challenge themselves to get selected for the final 13 and participate in the opening 7s series.

“It’s a good day. They are enjoying themselves and challenging themselves by working hard to impress the management in how they can adjust to the new environment.”

The Dubai tournaments are scheduled for 26-27 November and the weekend after, on 3-4 December.

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