15 Mar 2019

Sport: Infrastructure main hurdle for Fiji 7s hosting hopes

1:45 pm on 15 March 2019

Infrastructure remains the major hurdle before Fiji is ready to host a tournament on the World Sevens Series.

The Fiji Rugby Union submitted a bid last year proposing the introduction of an 11th leg of the men's circuit but World Rugby decided the current ten tournament structure will remain in place for the next four years.

The FRU are in discussions about alternating hosting of the existing Hamilton tournament from 2020, after being approached by their New Zealand counterparts last year.

Samoa push Fiji before falling short.

Fiji won the Hamilton 7s this year and could host the event as soon as 2021. Photo: Mike Lee - KLC fotos for World Rugby

But New Zealand Rugby's Chief Rugby Officer Nigel Cass admitted there were still logistical challenges for Fiji to overcome.

"It's not easy - you've got all the hotels in Fiji in Denarau on one side of the island and the best stadium on the other side of the island (in ANZ Stadium in Suva)," he said.

New Zealand Rugby has 20 years experience running a World Sevens Series event and Nigel Cass said it would to whatever it could to help Fiji's dream come to fruition.

"They're going to have to look at some infrastructure - whether that's permanent or temporary they're still working through that - but at the end of the day great sevens tournaments are made because the crowd is fantastic and they're really passionate so if some of the facilities are a bit rough around the edges but the fans are fantastic then the teams will love playing there."

NZ Rugby Chief Rugby Officer Nigel Cass.

NZ Rugby Chief Rugby Officer Nigel Cass. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Cass said Fiji will have to decide whether to refit or build a new stadium in Nadi, or boost accommodation numbers in Suva.

"That's what they're working through at the moment...if you're looking at fans travelling and so on then clearly being able to stay in Denarau's got some advantages but to do that there's some facility challenges, so they've just got to work through that," he said.

"If they can't achieve that then they've got a great stadium in Suva but some accommodation challenges, so we're just working through with them in relation to both those things."

Suva's ANZ Stadium has hosted an annual Super Rugby match since 2016.

ANZ Stadium in Suva has previously hosted Super Rugby matches. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Nigel Cass said the idea of sharing hosting duties was first explored when the Wellington Sevens began to struggle and said alternating between Hamilton and Fiji would help to alleviate any risk of fan fatigue.

While the commercial details are confidential, he insisted the move to partner with Fiji is not driven by dollars.

"We're not doing this to make any money. We want to be able to reach out, help the Fijians and hopefully, if there is a commercial success that will benefit rugby in Fiji. We believe if we can keep some of the expertise that we have around Hamilton employed while working on Fijian tournaments that's enough of a return for us," he said.

"Great for New Zealand fans too - one year you can go to Hamilton and watch the tournament, see the team in New Zealand, the next year you can get on a plane and go to Fiji."

The New Zealand Sevens will remain in Hamilton in 2020 but if Fiji are able to resolve issues surrounding infrastructure and accommodation it could move to Fiji as early as January 2021.