Fiji will be chasing their third World Cup title at the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens (RWC7s). The current Olympic champions are overwhelming favorites to take the title.
On the other hand, their women’s side Fijiana are outside contenders in the women’s draw. A side who have graduated and improved tremendously. A side who will give it their all.
The 24 Men’s and 16 Women’s will be playing knockout games to win the coveted Melrose Cup. With both titles currently held by the Kiwis, the Fijians want to wrestle them away. They have won the RWC7s title twice before, and are chasing their third.
Baber names Fiji 7s team for Rugby World Cup 7s#FijiNewshttps://t.co/Tc5FqZflNd pic.twitter.com/JOY7vXTpZy
— Fijivillage (@fijivillage) July 15, 2018
The inclusion of former rugby league star Semi Radradra (see main photo) together with Semi Kunatani, Leone Nakarawa and Josua Tuisova has boosted their campaign.
Ana Maria Roqica will lead the Fijiana women’s side, with Jerry Tuwai the men’s team; assisted by Nakarawa. Both Men’s coach Gareth Baber and Women’s coach Iliesa Tanivula have made some tough calls. With the limited selection, dropping named players from the side, to get the best side on the field. In an amazing call, World Rugby Sevens ‘Rookie of the Year’ Eroni Sau was dropped by Baber, with Tanivula dropping the talented Lavenia Tinai.
Both calls demonstrate how such is the competitiveness in trying to make the Fiji team. With the men’s team being the superstars of the game, Baber has had to do the best for the group. And with so much support across the globe, fans will cheer on the players although, in reality their women’s side still find it hard to get as much support from home.
#TosoViti #GoAussies! Here’s a special shoutout video from my team at the High Commission to @fijirugby’s #FlyingFijians 7s and #GoldBlooded @Aussie7s competing at @WorldRugby7s in #SanFrancisco! @rugbycomau @HSBC_Sport @FijiPM @FijiRepublic @TurnbullMalcolm @JulieBishopMP #RWC7s pic.twitter.com/e3EyOMM4AC
— John Feakes (@AusHCFJ) July 20, 2018
Gladly, the reception with an Rugby World Cup Sevens pinnacle event means, the volume of support lifts to 150%. And the women can respond to those positive messages, and the sight of the blue Fiji flag being waved, always lifts the girls spirits.
#RWC7s – Fijiana coach opts for speed
It was clear as day when Tanivula picked his squad that he has opted for speed. It was one of the areas they lacked all season. Tinai and Jiowana Sauto, who are both good defenders, have been sacrificed to bring in pace. Speed will be their strength but, turning possession into points will be vital in their progress.
Spain will be their first knockout opponent and how they approach that game will determine their fate.
Coach: Iliesa Tanivula | Captain: Ana Maria Roqica | Nickname: Fijiana
RWC Sevens best result: Bowl winners 2013
HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2018 final placing: 9
Led by captain Ana Maria Roqica and with try-scoring threats like Luisa Basei Tisolo and Ana Maria Naimasi, a Fijian side playing with freedom and a smile on their faces will be a welcome sight for their vocal supporters.
Fiji’s women, just like their men’s team, are a joy to watch when everything comes together. From the simple tactic of offloading out of tackles and creating space for others, the results are all too mesmerising, often involving long-range, attacking tries.
1st game of RWC tomorrow at 10AM Pacific. All the best Fijiana.Dou vakaukauwa sara e na qito kei Spain ni mataka. Bless up!! pic.twitter.com/HwiJrzNbJi
— clef (@fresh_courage) July 20, 2018
Fijiana struggled to find their form in the early rounds of the Sevens Series season, having enjoyed their best-ever finish in 2016-17. They placed fourth and raised levels of expectation back home. Not yet reaching the semi-finals stage, sixth place finishes in HSBC Kitakyushu and Paris 7s suggest that coach Iliesa Tanivula is again getting the best out of his players. If the women can be inspired by the multiple titles for the men, and with the expected crowd support, then this group could set new levels. click here for Fijiana squad
Fiji men chase third RWC7s title
The players selected have performed well all season. Not quite reaching their goals, the 2018 RWC7s group are ready to take that third World Cup title. With six players from the Rio Olympics they will be the team to beat.
Many have asked why Eroni Sau was dropped from the team but fans have to respect the choices made by the coaches. To put it into context, what Sau offers can be taken up by Radradra and Tuisova. However, what the team needed most is outright speed and that is what Naduva has offered to the team. His performance in Hamilton was outstanding, so Fiji can produce on the day.
One key element for the team management and players to focus on, is the format. Knockout matches from the start, so concentration and squad fitness will be crucial to ultimate success.
Coach: Gareth Baber | Captain: Jerry Tuwai | Twitter handle: @FijiRugby
RWC Sevens best result: Champions 1997 and 2005
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2018 final ranking: 2
To watch Fiji play sevens is a joy to behold. The Olympic champions entertain fans and bewitch opponents in equal measure with a dazzling skill-set that sets them apart from the rest.
Fiji won back-to-back world series titles in 2015 and 2016 and, with talent and power across the park, looked set for a third title in four years, but Gareth Baber’s charges lost in the Cup quarter-finals, and South Africa capitalized to pip them to the title by two points in the overall standings.
Fiji men’s squad: Alosio Naduva, Amenoni Nasilasila, Jasa Veremalua, Jerry Tuwai (captain), Josua Tuisova, Kalioni Nasoko, Leone Nakarawa, Paula Dranisinikula, Sevuloni Mocenacagi, Semi Kunatani, Semi Radradra, Vatemo Ravouvou.
Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018, the Verdict
The biggest questions among Fiji fans right now is who will officiate their games. They felt hard done by the referee in their Cup quarter-finals game at the HSBC Paris 7s. That loss cost them the series title, so the quality of calls at San Francisco must be consistent.
The men know they have the team to win. But they also respect teams like the Blitzboks, host nation USA, New Zealand and Australia. To win a third title, those sides maybe the hurdle which needs to be crossed.
Rugby sevens is a religion in Fiji, with World Rugby Hall of Famer Waisale Serevi is revered above all others in the Pacific Islands [and beyond]. Now retired, the little magician inspired Fiji to RWC7s glory in Hong Kong in 1997 and again 2005.
sevens legend Waisale Serevi, has given fiji a 98% chance of winning.
To be honest, it is their Cup to lose. A fortunate position to be in whereas the Fijiana girls on the other hand, they face an uphill climb to be the best. On their day they might surprise us all. Possibly, a third place finish could be a great result – if they believe in themselves, anything is possible.
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“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images