Meet 7’s Criteria: O’Connor

 Overseas players need to come home to be part of extended squad: O’Connor.
20 Jan 2021 13:42
 Meet 7’s Criteria: O’Connor
Recently named World Rugby 7s player of the decade Seremaia Tuwai is expected to play at the Super Seven Series which kicks off at Lawaqa Park in Sigatoka this weekend. Photo: Ronald Kumar

No overseas-based players will be guar­anteed a spot in the Fijian 7s and Fi­jiana teams for the Tokyo Olympic Games. Unless they must meet all the criteria set by the Fiji Rugby Union, in addition play­ers must be available to be part of the extended training squad and compete for the final 13 spots.

Speaking to SUNsports yesterday FRU chief executive officer John O’Connor, indicated that this had been made clear to the players by na­tional 7s coach Gareth Baber.

“The overseas-based players need time to make a transition from playing fifteens to sev­ens rugby,” he said.

“It’s going to take time for them and it’s not easy and all the overseas based players are aware of this.”

He, further highlighted that it was not as straight forward as before now that there were so many COVID- 19 compliance requirement and boarder restriction.

“We have learned a lot from our experience in the Nations Autumn and no one can take their inclusion for granted since we have to consider things like joining a negative bubble and so forth.

“With COVID- 19 picking up momentum in most countries and new lockdown measures taken, getting players back home and into a negative bubble will be challenge but we are putting plans into place and hope to leave no stone unturned in our preparation for the Olympic.”

Baber had earlier indicated his preference to have Semi Radradra, Aminiasi Tuimaba, Semi Kunatani and Vilimoni Botitu in the team for the Olympics.

O’Connor said for the 2016 Olympic Games, overseas based- players like Leone Nakarawa, Josua Tuisova and

Kunatani camped with the training squad for more than two months.

“We’ve started talks with the overseas-based players’ clubs if they could be released earli­er,” he added.

Legendary 7s coach Sir Gordon Tietjens once remarked that it takes four to six months for a player to make a transition from fifteens to sevens rugby.

Sir Gordon said during that transition period the player needed to play sevens rugby on a regular weekly basis.

O’Connor said this has opened up the door for the local-based players to show what they were capable of if they were to be considered for se­lection in the national 7s training squad.

Meanwhile this Friday, the FRU sanctioned- Sevens Series gets underway at Lawaqa Park, Sigatoka.

“It’s going to be an exciting weekend of sevens rugby. The selectors will be out there identify­ing talented players that can make the national sevens training squad.

“Everything is going well as we prepare for the first leg of this series of four tournaments together. We are continuing discussion with potential sponsors and we will soon be making an announcement on the sponsorship partner­ship.”

Meanwhile, O’Connor confirmed that over­seas international teams had declared their interest to play in the FRU sanctioned series.

“These includes Russia, Japan and other Teams who have qualified for the Olympics.

“We’re fortunate in Fiji because we have so many talented 7 players who form quality sev­ens teams who could provide stiff competition to our national sevens players. All these in­ternational teams are desperately looking for more game time against quality oppositions. They could only get that in Fiji.”

O’Connor said Fijians living overseas could watch the FRU sanctioned- sevens tournament on pay-per-view channel, which would cost them $US15.

He also reassured clubs who wanted to host their own local tournaments that Fiji Rugby would work and support.

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