26 Jan 2018

Sport: Fiji 7s look eye winning form as PNG target improvement

12:45 pm on 26 January 2018

A new-look Fijian sevens squad is eager to return to winning ways when the World Series resumes in Sydney today.

Fiji have gone five tournaments without making a final, having finished fourth in Dubai and fifth in Cape Town last month.

Apisai Domolailai and Apenisa Cakaubalavu have been dropped from the squad while Vatemo Ravouvou and John Stewart were stood down for disciplinary issues.

Jerry Tuwai of Fiji (R) is tackled by Wales' Adam Thomas (L) during a match between Fiji and Wales in the Men's Sevens World Rugby Dubai Series on December 1, 2017 in the Gulf emirate of Dubai. / AFP PHOTO / KARIM SAHIB

Fiji captain Jerry Tuwai looks to make a tackle. Photo: AFP or licensors

Apete Daveta, Alasio Naduva and Vasikali Mudu will make their World Series debut in Sydney and captain Jerry Tuwai is backing the newcomers to perform.

"The competition is very high in Sydney in camp. Whoever is picked by Gareth (Baber, the coach) I think we trust them and for these new boys we trust them and believe they can do the job this weekend."

Pacific rivalries revisited

Fiji face Pacific rivals Samoa first up this evening, having beaten the Manu 40-0 in their opening match at last year's Sydney tournament.

"All the teams nowadays are hard - no teams are easy. For us we'll just take one game at a time and try to win all our games and go to the [end]," reflected Tuwai.

New Zealand are also in the same pool at Allianz Stadium and Samoa coach Sir Gordon Tietjens admitted his side have a tough ask ahead of them.

"Fiji on the Friday night's going to be really tough. We played them first up last year as well and of course New Zealand, who won the last tournament and it's fair to say we've got two of the toughest teams in probably the toughest pool but it is what it is and you've got to get on with it," he said.

"We're looking forward to the challenge: we know we're going into both those games as real underdogs but it's about taking small steps at a time and I think my team's doing that at the moment."

Fiji and Samoa will square off in their opening pool match at the Sydney Sevens.

Fiji and Samoa will square off in their opening pool match at the Sydney Sevens. Photo: Mike Lee - KLC fotos for World Rugby

The Manu missed the Cup quarter finals in Cape Town last month and Sir Gordon said nailing the key moments in games can have a big influence on results.

"Of course your decision-making at crucial times and performing the skill level or executing the skills when you need to at big times as well, and it's fair to say in a couple of the big games - particularly against Wales, which possibly could have put us in the Cup Championship - we took a bad option in the last play of the game, which we could have won."

"...we beat Canada in our very first game who then went onto the semis so we're there or thereabouts - it's just in our game it's about those big moments and getting those decisions right when they're really needed."

The men's and women's tournaments will run side by side for the first time in Sydney.

The men's and women's tournaments will run side by side for the first time in Sydney. Photo: Mike Lee - KLC fotos for World Rugby

PNG eye rare opportunity

Papua New Guinea feature in both the men's and women's tournaments in Sydney, which are being played side by side for the first time.

Both the Pukpuks men and Palais women failed to win a match in 2017 but earned a second shot following strong performances at the recent Oceania Championships, where they also qualified for Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco in July.

But PNG women's captain Debbie Kaore said the Palais have plenty of room for improvement.

"For the team itself we've been really lacking communications and teamwork so we've actually learnt from that, so hopefully we will improve on that and probably our decision making at breakdowns and stuff," she said.

The Palais spent eight weeks preparing back in PNG following the Oceania Champs and Debbie Kaore said they will give it their all in pool matches against

France, Australia and Spain.

"Obviously, we've trained so hard for this so we're here to let our presence (be) known and we're not going to take any of the games easy. We're going to give our best and make sure that our opponents feel PNG is there."

Meanwhile the Fijiana women take on Canada, Russia and Ireland in their pool.

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