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Rio Olympics, SPORTS

They Fear Us, Says Friday

They Fear Us, Says Friday
Team Fiji men’s rugby sevens forwards Jasa Veremalua (left) and Leone Nakarawa after their final training run in Santiago, Chile. Photo: Bruce Southwick/ZoomFiji.
August 05
10:40 2016

 

USA men’s rugby sevens coach Mike Friday believes that despite being an underdog they are still a feared side.

“We are not favourites,” Friday told The Telegraph.

“Fiji are and your traditional superpowers will be up there, but then you ask any of those nations who they fear and who they don’t want to come up against and they will say the USA.”

Friday said this is because they have the perfect balance of power, physicality and out-and-out pace to hurt anybody and they have hurt every one of them in the series.

“When you get to the Olympics it is any given Sunday and then it is a case of who comes to the party on the day. We have got the tools to come to that party and if we play to our ability it does not matter what the opposition do.”

Friday’s USA team are grouped with favourites Fiji, Brazil and Argentina. They have famously been Olympic rugby champions since winning gold in the 15-man game in 1924 but one of a string southern hemisphere sides look set to strike that anomaly from the record books when Sevens makes its debut in Rio.

 

FIFTEENS TO SEVENS

While Sevens might have the look of a high octane, souped-up version of the 15-man game purpose-built for the era of the attention deficient, its origins go back to 1883 and it has a history and culture all of its own.

At the heart of that history is the pace, power and skill of the Fijians, 16 times winners of the iconic Hong Kong Sevens and World Series champions for the last two years.  They head to Brazil as bookmakers’ favourites to win the first men’s rugby title in 92 years and secure for the Pacific island nation a maiden Olympic medal of any colour.

As in the 15-man game which they dominate, New Zealand also have a glorious sevens tradition and the All Blacks are likely to be there or thereabouts when the medals are decided.

 

OTHER CONTENDERS

Sonny Bill Williams, twice a World Cup winner with New Zealand in the longer format, is one of the few high profile test players who have managed to make the transition to the lung-busting exertions of the 14-minute game.

South Africa, with speedster Seabelo Senatla on the wing, and Australia are also strong contenders, while Britain could get among the medals if they manage to bring together a squad of players who usually play for England, Wales and Scotland.

In a format where any team can beat another on a given day, USA successfully defending the rugby title is not out of the question and in Carlin “fastest man in rugby” Isles and Perry Baker they have the pace to trouble any side.

 

WOMEN RUGBY

It will be a women’s team who will claim the first Olympic sevens rugby gold, however, as their August 6-8 competition precedes that of the men (August 9-11) at the Deodoro Stadium.

Australia are the reigning World Series champions with New Zealand, whose squad features Sonny Bill’s sister Niall, and Fiji also chasing success for the southern hemisphere.

Canada finished third in the 2015-16 World Series ahead of England, who will represent Britain, while France and the United States will also be medal contenders.

Regardless of who walks away with the medals, though, the biggest winners in Rio should be World Rugby, for whom the Olympics is a gilt-edged opportunity to spread the game beyond the handful of nations that constitute its heartland.

Edited by Leone Cabenatabua

Feedback:  anasilinir@fijisun.com.fj

 

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