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Fiji 7s Rugby: ‘Pool of death’ Factor

Australia hire psychologist to cope with situation as they aim to qualify ahead of Fiji and New Zealand.
31 Mar 2019 15:25
Fiji 7s Rugby: ‘Pool of death’ Factor
Fiji Airways Fijian 7s back Livai Ikanikoda fends Hong Kong’s Ben Rimene during a practice match at the Hong Kong Institute of Sports on March 30, 2019.

The Fiji Airways Fijian 7s team took on Hong Kong in a warm-up match at the Hong Kong Institute of Sports yesterday to prepare for their tough pool games.

Placed in the ‘pool of death’ along with New Zealand, Australia and Kenya, the effect is already taking its toll.

According to Rugby Australia, the Aussies under coach Tim Walsh have hired the service of a sports psychologist to help them defy a “pool of death” and to make history at the Hong Kong Sevens next week.

Winning a first Hong Kong title since 1988 is the obvious goal but the extra punishment of finishing ninth in Vancouver last start is being grouped in a killer pool.

With only the top two going through to the playoffs from their pool, the Australians must beat two of the three or they’ll miss out on a place in the top eight again.

It’s a tough ask but when asked about he’d approach the tough pool, the positive attitude of coach Walsh had him pointing towards another piece of potential history for New Zealand or Fiji.

“With excitement and as a challenge,” Walsh replied.

“I don’t think Fiji or New Zealand have ever been in the bottom eight, so one of them is going to be.”

Walsh welcomed back Longbottom and Tim Anstee from injury in his squad for Hong Kong, which begins on Friday week with a first-up clash against the Kiwis.

BRING IT ON

“It’s a pool of death I guess. It is a very physical pool, with Fiji, New Zealand and Kenya.

“We enjoy playing Fiji. We have a

very clear game plan when we go out and play against Fiji,” speedster Henry Hutchison said. “The Kiwis have beaten us easily this year and it is itching to our skin, we hate losing to the Kiwis. I know I do.

“So we are really focussing on that first game. There is only one game on the Friday night. We will go out there, get the job done and move onto the Fijians, who we know how to play against and then finish off with Kenya.”

The side is sitting sixth in the World Sevens Series standings after a frustratingly inconsistent season that has seen them knock off Fiji and South Africa but only make the semi-finals once in six rounds.

“We are winning some tight games, losing some tight games and also losing some bad games,” Hutchison said.

“We have shown that we can be a top three team throughout the season but we have also shown we can really fall off the pace with the other teams and place poorly.

It’s that inconsistency in the team and individual preparation letting us down.”

WE CAN MIX IT

Aussie sevens captain Lewis Holland added: “We have had some good results but it is just the fluctuations from when we are at our best to when we are at our worst.

“We can mix it with the best, as you’ve seen in some results against Fiji and South Africa. But there are just those little lapses at times when we get to a 3/10 or a 4/10 that really hurt us and undo we have been training and what we’re about.

“It’s about trying to iron out that fluctuation so that a bad game is a 6/10, and not a 3.”

The team have tried changed training routines to mirror tournament weeks and Walsh and team leaders have booked extra sessions with a sports psychologist to help the squad with “resilience training” and to handle pressure more effectively.

“I think all sports use psychologists now. There is a lot of research and a lot of people speak highly about them. If you are not using that I think you are behind the eight ball,” Holland said.

PRESSURE MOMENTS

Walsh said: “It’s just having some tools to cope with pressure moments. A lot of that comes with experience, but the job as coach to accelerate all those learnings.

“You look at our games and you hear me talking about it a lot, within our six games four to five of them are going to come down to a pressure moment.

Edited by Sheldon Chanel

Feedback: leonec@fijisun.com.fj

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