SPORTS

Fiji’s campaign starts with NZ

  The Vodafone Fijian 7s team’s campaign to retain the Hong Kong 7s title and also win their first tournament in the 2016/17 World Sevens Series will not be easy
04 Apr 2017 11:00
Fiji’s campaign starts with NZ
Mesulame Kunavula (left) comes in to assist Kalione Nasoko in their friendly match against Hong Kong. Photo: South China Morning Post

 

The Vodafone Fijian 7s team’s campaign to retain the Hong Kong 7s title and also win their first tournament in the 2016/17 World Sevens Series will not be easy this time around.

The Gareth Baber-coached side will first have to overcome their biggest rivals New Zealand in their pool game.

After six rounds of the 10-leg series, the Fijian are yet to win a tournament – an unusual barren spell for the Islanders, especially coming after their gold medal- winning campaign at the Rio Olympics. However, they have always conjured up something special for Hong Kong, where they have won 15 times, including two World Cups. And this time they will be returning with Baber, who coached Hong Kong before leaving to replace Ben Ryan at the helm of the Olympic champions.  Fiji needs to get off the blocks quickly during this weekend’s showpiece at Hong Kong Stadium as they are in Pool C with New Zealand, Wales and Japan.

New Zealand have won 11 times in Hong Kong, most recently in 2014, but like Fiji, have yet to break through this season under interim head coach Scott Waldrom.

Crowd favourites England lead the 16-team cast fresh from their success at the Canada Sevens in Vancouver. They are in Pool A with Australia, Samoa and South Korea.  Series leaders South Africa, with four tournament wins so far, have been drawn with Canada, Kenya and France in Pool B. Team USA, Argentina, Scotland and Russia comprise Pool D.

 

QUALIFIER

In the separate 12-team qualifier, hosts Hong Kong will do well to approach their World Series promotion quest with caution, after being drawn with Chile, Sri Lanka and Namibia in Pool F.

The winner in the qualifier will be promoted to core-team status, which makes it eligible to play with the elite sides in all World Series tournaments.

“The countries in the qualifier are getting stronger and stronger,” said Hong Kong coach Paul John.

“Looking at our pool alone, Chile have had a good couple of tournaments on the series so that will be a tough match, but I think it’s important to have a few of those in the pool stages.

“It will be a real challenge and it’s always exciting to have the opportunity to play against quality opposition.”

Germany lead Pool E, which also includes Tonga, Uganda and Jamaica. Spain are in Pool G with Papua New Guinea, Uruguay and Guyana.

In the women’s World Series qualifier, Hong Kong have been drawn with Argentina, Kenya and Belgium in Pool B.

That separated them from fellow Asian hopefuls Japan and China, who are in Pool A with Holland and Jamaica. Pool C is made up of South Africa, Colombia, Papua New Guinea and Italy.

“I’m pretty happy with our pool,” said Hong Kong women’s coach Anna Richards.

“For a moment I thought we might get stuck in all-Asian pool with Japan and China but fortunately we were drawn in Pool B.

“We came up short last time against Argentina and we played Kenya here a few years ago so it will be good to have another crack at both of those teams.”

Edited by Paula Tuvuki

Feedback:  ranobab@fijisun.com.fj

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