PacificAus Sports Oceania Sevens Team Preview: Fiji 7's

Everyone remembers Fiji’s historic Olympic gold medal five years ago, but a lot can change in half a decade.

With only two members of that championship team surviving, new faces have risen to the challenge, making coach Gareth Barber the most successful Fijian coach with 12 World Series tournament wins.

Fiji has been a consistent performer since the World Series began in 1999, having finished in the top-four every season. They have won the series four-times, with their most recent title coming in 2019.

Ten members of their Oceania Sevens squad played during that season, with them all of them returning again last year, except Kalione Nasoko who suffered from an ACL injury.

The team is bolstered by the return of Nasoko, who was twice named to the World Series Dream Team, as well as Olympic gold medallist Kitione Taliga who returns after a four-year hiatus.

The team is led by the other Olympian Jerry Tuwai, who needs no introduction. The Olympic gold, Commonwealth silver and three-time World Series champion, was named Player of the Decade last year and also sits atop his team being their all-time leading try scorer.

The Fiji 7s team has exciting young talent coming through in the form of Meli Derenalagi and Napolioni Bolaca, who have both been selected to the World Series Dream Team in the past two seasons. Napolioni even lead the series in points scored in 2020, in only his second season.

Gareth Barber has selected seven uncapped players in his side, rewarding their domestic performances and given them a chance to stake their claim against international competition.

“The new players named in the squad have done exceptionally well here in Fiji and have won a spot in the team because of their behaviour and performance during training sessions.

“Now the big test for them is to go-up against players they don’t know and face a different style of rugby in both defence and attack, and track themselves progressively,” said Barber.

Fiji has an excellent record against Australia, having lost only three matches against the Aussies in five seasons.

New Zealand slightly edges the Fijians on the all-time head-to-head, but since their loss to the Kiwis in the final at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, Fiji have gone on to beat them in two out of every three games.
Having not played internationally in over 15 months, the Oceania Sevens presents the perfect opportunity to prepare for their title defence. But they won’t let preparation get in the way of winning.

And by the way, the last tournament Fiji played in Australia (the 2020 Sydney Sevens); the Flying Fijians came out on top.

Squad:
Kalione Nasoko, Josua Vakurinabili, Meli Derenalagi, Kavekini Tabu, Iosefo Masikau, Asaeli Tuivuaka, Joseva Talacolo, Taniela Sadrugu, Rusiate Nasove, Jerry Tuwai ©, Livai Ikanikoda, Napolioni Bolaca, Waisea Nacuqu, Jiuta Wainiqolo, Kaminieli Rasaku, Sireli Maqala, Kitone Taliga, Alasio Naduva