No easy Ryder for Fiji

Fiji coach Jo Savou has named 10 new caps in his 15-man squad for the opening rounds of the International Rugby Board (IRB) World Sevens Series, Dubai and George.

The First Round of the 2007/2008 Series is in Dubai on November 30 and December 1, with the George (South African) leg a week later.

South African-based Akuila Nawerecagi, who played for the Falcons in the Currie Cup competition, returns after last having played Sevens for his country in 2005.

However, other stars such as William Ryder and Sireli Naqelevuki are conspicuous by their absence.

Ryder, one of the top try-scorers on the Sevens circuit and the leading points scorer in the 2006/2007 Series, had his contract with the Fiji Rugby Union (FRU) terminated earlier this year.

Ryder, along with Etonia Naba and Lepani Nabuliwaqa, were suspended from international duties after misconduct on the last leg of the 2006/2007 IRB Series in Scotland in June.

Ryder has taken up a contract in Japan with the Toyota team.

Naqelevuki, who was a regular in the Western Province Currie Cup team this year, missed the entire Super 14 season because of disciplinary issues – including a suspension for the use of Cannabis.

Despite the absence of these seasoned stars Nawerecagi believes Fiji still has a lot to offer in the IRB Sevens Series.

“Fiji, no doubt, produces some of the world’s finest and skillful sevens players who have the unique flair with the potential to create more upsets this season,” Nawerecagi told the Fiji Times.

The former Navosa flyer has high hopes and feels the new look Fiji Sevens squad is well balanced.

“The senior guys and big names have moved on and we must learn to trust each other and work together,” Naqelevuki said.

The 29-year-old, who hails from Nabutautau village, urged teammates to bond closer and maintain good team spirit.

“The target for every player is to go and win the first sevens outing and we can’t promise to win or lose but we’ll do our best,” he said.

“We have two weeks to train together before Fiji takes its best to Dubai and George sevens,” Naqelevuki said.

He is the only overseas-based player.

After announcing the 15-man squad – the final 12 will be revealed next week – Savou said he had faith in the team and players.

“I’m confident of these new caps, they have all proven themselves and I believe they will go a long way,” he said.

Savou said fitness remained the key focus as they prepare to kick-off the opening IRB Sevens Series on a high note.

“Fitness will be monitored and players have been cautioned that changes will be made if players’ fitness isn’t up to par,” Savou said.

Players have been given training programs to work on before marching into camp on Sunday.

Fiji Sevens squad:

Forwards: Sakenasa Aca (Naitasiri), Isei Lewaqai (Nadi), Viliame Maya (Ovalau), Etonia Naba (Nadroga), Rupeni Nasiga (Nadroga), Iliesa Ratuva (Nadroga), Epeli Vuniwaqa (Namosi).

Backs: Setefano Cakau (Namosi), Vereniki Goneva (Nadi), Tomasi Mawi (Namosi), Akuila Nawerecagi (Falcons, SA), Neumi Nanuku (Nadroga), Saimoni Nuku (Nadi), Taniela Rawaqa (Nadi), Emosi Vucago, (Nadroga).

Opetaia Ravai (manager)
Josateki Savou (coach)
Venasio Ramabuke (physio)

Additionally, five players who participated in the Fiji Sevens trails will be added to the FRU’s High Performance Unit.

High Performance Unit players: Apisai Salabogi (Suva), Alfred Smith (Lautoka), Mesulame Soga (Tavua), Pio Tuwai (Ba), Sionasa Vunisa (Tavua)


365 Digital

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