Fiji early favourites for Sevens World Series glory

Sport360 staff 15:19 08/10/2014
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Laying down a marker: Fuji (l) are the team to beat.

The excitement is building for rugby sevens fans as the HSBC Sevens World Series kicks off this weekend in Australia’s Gold Coast. And just a matter of weeks later the Series comes to Dubai for one of the most popular events on the Dubai annual sporting and social calendar.

The Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens on December 4-6 is a three day extravaganza featuring a triple threat of rugby, the HSBC Sevens World Series, the IRB Women’s Sevens World Series and the huge invitation tournament which has over 220 teams competing.

There is even more at stake this year with the top four finishers in both the men’s and women’s World Series’ earning a berth at the Olympic Games in Brazil in 2016, when rugby sevens makes its Olympic debut.

With the season now underway early favourites are emerging, with the Oceania Sevens seeing some of the top rugby nations go head to head. Fiji started the year in fine form, winning the Oceania competition convincingly by defeating New Zealand All Blacks Sevens 21-5 in the final.

Fiji finished third in the World Series standings last season, winning in Dubai and Japan. They have flourished under the guidance of coach Ben Ryan, who took over the reigns after a six year stint as England’s Sevens coach.

Despite having lost some of their key players including 2013 IRB Sevens Player of the Year Samisoni Viriviri to more lucrative overseas offers since last season, Ryan has managed to pull together a strong squad which he believes will be a real threat for the overall title this year.

To stem the flow of players offshore to the wealthier rugby nations, Ryan recently introduced professional player contracts with performance incentives and bonus payments and has also managed to attract some converts from the fifteens and rugby league to the game, including talented former league star Eminoni Nasilasila.

"Hopefully we can hit those 150 series points as quickly as we can to be guaranteed that we are on the plane to Rio," Ryan said.

"I'm not going to fall to bits if we don't win the Gold Coast 7s but I still want to see progress and that means having some good victories and playing well."

As the first stop on the Olympics qualifying campaign, there is a lot riding on the Gold Coast Sevens for all teams, and with the announcement of the pool rounds some enthralling matches are on the cards as teams battle for the first points of the Series.

Fiji have drawn Australia in their pool, along with Scotland and Portugal. Australia, under the new leadership of Geraint John, arguably represent the biggest group stage threat to Fiji, and are expected to throw everything at the World Series.  

In a strong Pool A along with New Zealand are this year’s Asian Games champions, Japan, who also won the qualification tournament last month to take a core team place in the series after Spain was dropped last year. Samoa, victors in Dubai in 2012, and an in-form France complete the group.

The danger team in Pool B will be the reigning Commonwealth Games champions South Africa. Also in Pool B are Wales, Kenya and American Samoa.

Pool D features England, Canada, the USA and Argentina.

Tickets for the Dubai tournament will go on sale on 15 October with massive crowds once again expected to attend one of the region’s favourite sporting and social occasions of the year.

For all the information about the event and tickets go to dubairugby7s.com

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