16 Jul 2020

Fiji 7s might be forced to overlook foreign based stars for Olympics

9:21 am on 16 July 2020

Fiji men's sevens coach Gareth Baber has hinted it may be difficult for overseas-based stars to be a part of next year's Tokyo Olympics campaign.

Fiji returned to winning ways in Sydney.

Fiji are chasing a second straight Olympic gold medal. Photo: Mike Lee - KLC fotos for World Rugby

The Welshman has extended his contract through until the end of next year's Summer Games, after they were delayed by 12 months because of Covid-19.

"We are glad to sign Gareth on for another year and to have him take-charge of the 2020/2021 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series and the 2021 Olympic Games in Japan," FRU Chief Executive Mr John O'Connor said.

"We've had to make this adjustment with the postponement of the Games to July next year due to the COVID-19 pandemic."

Fiji's coach Gareth Baber following their victory in Hamilton.

Gareth Baber. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Since Gareth Baber took charge at the start of 2017 the team has won 12 of 34 tournaments on the global circuit - more than any other country - and lifted the overall title in 2019.

"Coaching the Fiji Airways Fijian 7s team is a huge task and undertaking and I am grateful to be given the opportunity to continue this journey and to see the team through to the Summer Games next year," he said.

"There is a lot of responsibilities on my shoulders. I have to monitor all my seasonal players since the cancellations of the 2019/2020 World Rugby series and also pre-plan for next year where we will be defending the Olympic Gold medal in Japan."

Foreign-based stars Josua Tuisova, Leone Nakarawa, Semi Kunatani and Samisoni Viriviri bolstered the Fiji squad that won gold in Rio de Janeiro four years ago

Fiji's lock Leone Nakarawa (R) tackles Georgia's flanker Mamuka Gorgodze during the RugbY World Cup pool match..

Flying Fijians star Leone Nakarawa was a key figure in Fiji's 2016 Olympic success. Photo: AFP or licensors

A number of European-based players have expressed interest in helping Fiji chase a second consecutive Olympic gold medal in Japan but Gareth Baber said funding constraints and travel restrictions might force them to focus on players closer to home.

"There's a reality of putting a group of players together and going to take on the challenge that has now just got even more difficult in the challenges that we have in the funding mechanisms but also just generally with the way the tournaments are going to be," he said.

"What I want to do is make sure that we get to the Olympics with a settled team that is understanding of each other, understanding of the culture of the group and understanding of the work ethics that need to be made...and that's the only thing that I look at."

Fiji finished third in the truncated 2019/20 Men's World Series, with their only success coming at the Sydney Sevens in February.