8 Jul 2016

Sport: Time running out for Fiji's Olympic 7s hopefuls

2:03 pm on 8 July 2016

Time is running out for Fiji's sevens hopefuls to force their way into the final squad for the Rio Olympics, which will be unveiled on July 16.

22 men and 19 women have spent the past four weeks in their respective camps, being put through exhaustive fitness sessions, running up sand dunes and playing inter-squad matches against their fellow hopefuls.

Ben Ryan's World Series winning men's squad spent extra time in the gym during their successful campaign, with the idea of peaking in time for Rio.

Fiji sevens coach Ben Ryan.

Fiji sevens coach Ben Ryan. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

He said the plan is coming together and players would have run 50km each last week alone, with the intensity, pace and workload being put on players building week by week.

"We fattened them up during the (Sevens World) Series, we didn't have as much onus on their fitness scores, we put some of them into tournaments where we knew they were 1/2/3 kilograms heavier than they should be and they were a couple of stages down on yoyos - all with the plan on shedding and getting fitter.

"We've gone on a high protein diet, we've thrown carbs out the window and they've reacted brilliantly to that - they've got tons of energy and dropped all their skinfolds. They actually haven't lost too much weight because that fats gone but a lot of muscle has been added to those boys.

Fiji celebrate back to back World Series titles.

Fiji celebrate back to back World Series titles. Photo: World Rugby / Martin Series Lima

"They're robust..the amount of contact work we're doing in training. With that comes a huge risk - I'm not sure too many other teams would do this, I don't think they would risk the amount of volume of contact and one on one tackling that we're doing, but with that risk comes huge reward for us. We know that it works for us and we will continue doing it," he said.

"Whether it's five/six/seven or ten minute halves that we're playing full contact and we're probably getting through about 18 to 20 five/six/seven minute halves and we're doing that for three days so huge amount of volume really but we know that, in the past, when we put small sessions of high intensity, huge contact work in we normally reap the benefits in tournaments so I'm pleased with where we are at the moment."

Much has been made about former rugby league and NFL star Jarryd Hayne's inclusion in the squad and chances of making the final cut.

Jarryd Hayne in action for Fiji at the London Sevens.

Jarryd Hayne in action for Fiji at the London Sevens. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Ben Ryan said Fiji's final 12 players in Rio will be selected on form alone and some hard decisions will need to be made.

"We've got 22 in camp at the moment with just Isake Katonibau that's been moved out of the squad. I'll make a few more (cuts) probably on Friday and we will cut it down for the final week before we select the 12 so it's highly competitive. We were planning on dropping a couple of boys last week but there was no valid reason to do that. Everyone is training so hard and sacrificing so much, I wanted to give every player that was doing that the longest opportunity to try to push their place.

"We've lost not a single one of our players from injury from the World Series and that's meant I've got a nice deep cupboard of players so it's not a 12 - if you told me today to name that side I'd find it very difficult. I'd give you 15 names probably with confidence but really I would say there's about 17/18/19 players that are fighting hard at the moment and fact that we've got 22 in camp shows you they've all still got a chance," he said.

"I've got to remind myself all the time that if I'm seeing a world class player on the field I've got to make sure he is putting in world class training every one and they're showing all the traits that put them down in the squad in the first place. It's easy for a coach to pick on a face and hoping that come the big day will come the big performance but we don't do that - we will pick on what we see, the boys know that - so they really are having to flog it out every session but that has meant I will leave trainings to the last minute for selection and give them every chance and also give me as much clarity as I possibly can."

Leone Nakarawa is one Fiji's 15-a-side stars vying for Olympic selection.

Leone Nakarawa is one Fiji's 15-a-side stars vying for Olympic selection. Photo: PHOTOSPORT