SPORTS

Semi ‘High On My List’

The Olympic Games, which were postponed from 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, will now due to run between July 23 to August 8 in Tokyo.
07 Jan 2021 11:53
Semi ‘High On My List’
Flying Fijians captain, Semi Radradra. Photo: Bristol Bears and Semi Kunatani. Photo: Premiership Rugby

Fijian 7s head coach Gareth Baber will request rugby superstar Semi Radradra be released from Bristol Bears to play for his country at the Olympics this summer.

And while on festive break in Europe, the Welshman also spoke to 2016 Rio Olympics gold medal winning team player Semi ‘Beast’ Kunatani and other former 7s players Vilimoni Botitu and Aminiasi Tuimaba.

The Olympic Games, which were postponed from 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, will now due to run between July 23 to August 8 in Tokyo.

In theory that should cause no problems with Bristol’s season which is due to conclude on June 26 at the latest when the Gallagher Premiership final is set to be played, barring another break in the season due to coronavirus.

Set up a bubble in Oz

Baber told RugbyPass he would talk to Bears Director of Rugby Pat Lam about Bristol’s marquee signing joining the team ahead of the games with plans to set-up a bubble in Australia with New Zealand, Samoa and Australia to provide match and training practice before the teams depart for Tokyo with the World Sevens Series currently suspended.

“Semi definitely has an intention and a desire to play in the Olympics and there will be conversations with Semi and Pat,”he said.

“The release of a player of that ilk is a big ask, and there are also players in the Top 14 like Vilimoni Botitu and Aminiasi Tuimaba at Castres and Pau respectively. They are high on my list having just dropped out of sevens to 15s.

“I’ve been in contact with Semi Kunatani and he had issues with Castres having been dropped for medical reasons. I have spoken to him about if things don’t work out in France then we would look at him being part of the training group. He is a great player.

“It’s a challenge for the boys in Europe to come down and join the squad in Fiji.

“I had agreements with some of the clubs to get players released for up to four tournaments last season but that is not going to happen. It’s now about coming to Fiji and what impact the quarantine periods are going to have each time they come which is an added difficulty.”

Jerry will do Olympics

Baber said one of the players already selected for the Olympics is Seremaia ‘Jerry’ Tuwai.

“Jerry will do the Olympics. He feels a responsibility and wants to push himself to win a second gold medal,”Baber said.

“That is his vision. We are working and developing players in Fiji and the issue the new guys have is that they have not played any international rugby sevens while players in Europe have that experience of walking into the cauldron of an Olympics.”

45-hour flight

After the festive break, Barber left London on Tuesday.

“I have done all my tests in the UK and have had a negative COVID-19 certificate. I will spend 14 days in quarantine after a 45-hour flight via Doha, Brisbane, Auckland and then Fiji. I left on December 15 two days before Cyclone Yasa and it was particularly scary for the villages where some of the players come from.”

Edited by Maika Bolatiki

Feedback: oseab@fijisun.com.fj


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