Only two Pacific countries in Wellington Sevens
The Sevens World Series resumes this weekend with Pacific teams admitting the Wellington event is simply another step on the road to the Rio Olympics.Fiji and Samoa are the only Pacific nations competing in New Zealand this year, the lowest number in the tournament's 17-year history.
The Sevens World Series resumes this weekend with Pacific teams admitting the Wellington event is simply another step on the road to the Rio Olympics.
Fiji and Samoa are the only Pacific nations competing in New Zealand this year, the lowest number in the tournament's 17-year history.
Vinnie Wylie reports.
Fiji are the reigning World Series champions and lead the current campaign from South Africa on points differential after two rounds. Despite that, coach Ben Ryan says his squad remains undercooked fitness-wise. He says everything this season is about peaking for Rio, although they still want to play well along the way.
BEN RYAN: We want to win the tournament I and want to see improvements so if we don't win and I can see an improvement in the side I'll be reasonably happy but I mean we're in the business of winning - don't shy away from it. I don't want to be a coach that starts telling you that that's not what we're after - of course we are. We want to win tournaments and if we leave here Sunday night without the trophy we will all be disappointed.
Samoa have yet to qualify for the Olympics and produced a mixed bag in the opening two World Series tournaments - reaching the Cup quarter finals in Dubai before slumping to a 13th place finish in Cape Town. The Manu are missing four key players through injury this weekend but experienced campaigners Tom Iosefo and Tomasi Alosio will feature for the first time this season. Coach Damian McGrath says they want to put on a better showing for their supporters back home but admits just getting out of their group will be a challenge, with France, the United States and England all ranked above them.
DAMIAN MCGRATH: All three will be vying for top spot in our group - we seem to have been forgotten there - but it's a good litmus test for us to see where we are in terms of our journey. I'd willingly give up this year's series if I could guarantee a space at the Olympics and take the country there, that would be fantastic, but we don't think we will be too far away from any of those three teams and whilst we're not confident of saying we're going to win the tournament we really are confident of putting on good performances.
This year's Wellington Sevens will feature the lowest ever turnout of Pacific teams in the event's 17-year history. Five island nations competed in the inaugural event in 2000 while three teams have been involved at each of the past three tournaments. Tonga finished second at last year's Oceania Championship, and had expected be involved in the World Series events in Wellington and Sydney. But World Rugby changed the rules and gave the spot to Japan. Tonga coach Andy Katoa says it's frustrating, with his team desperate for game-time ahead of the final Olympic qualifier in Monaco in June, as well as the World Series core-team qualifier in April.
ANDY KATOA: I think that [decision] was made way ahead of time before we were in Oceania. I think the powers that be their minds were already made up. I thought the whole time that we were going to be at those events but they had meetings prior to that and I wasn't privy to the info - maybe I should have been privy to the info - but that decision was made way before [the Oceania Championship] even though we were still under that notion [that we would be going].
So without Tonga, it's left to Fiji and Samoa. Fiji face Japan first up on Saturday afternoon while Samoa open their campaign against the USA.
To embed this content on your own webpage, cut and paste the following: