Hong Kong Sevens

We're going for gold, says Fiji coach

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 March, 2010, 12:00am

Winning an Olympic gold medal is just a dream for many small countries, but sevens can make that dream come true for Fiji, two-time winners of the Rugby World Cup in 1997 and 2005 - both occasions in Hong Kong.

'It is a realistic chance for us to win our country's first gold medal at the Olympics,' Fijian coach Iliesa Tanivula says. 'I think in world rugby, it will be as important as winning a Rugby World Cup [15s].'

When the IOC gave sevens the thumbs up last October, the biggest cheers was heard all the way down in Suva.

While offering Fiji a realistic chance to win gold, Tanivula (pictured) believes the South Pacific islanders would now be able to keep their best players who otherwise go overseas, mainly to New Zealand and Australia.

'Sevens as an Olympic sport will help retain players for Fiji,' Tanivula said.

'We can't compete with the resources that Australia and New Zealand have, but what we do is compete with them on the pitch. Hopefully, the Olympics will convince our players to stay at home and help us compete well.'

Tanivula called for the Fiji Rugby Union to think long-term - at least six years - and put a programme in place with winning Olympic gold in mind.

'We need to get our system in place so when we get to 2016 we have a plan in place and hopefully can go on to win the gold medal,' Tanivula said. 'There are a lot of good players in the country and we just need to identify the right group and prepare them correctly.'

Long regarded as the spiritual guardians of sevens, Fiji have been the most successful at the World Cup Sevens, winning two of the five editions - the other winners being England (the inaugural World Cup in 1993), New Zealand (in 2001) and Wales (2009). Fiji have also won the Hong Kong Sevens on 12 occasions, including the two World Cups.

As far as pedigree is concerned, the islanders would be favourites to lift the first Olympic gold medal for sevens.

'But doing well at the Olympics is going to require a plan,' cautioned Tanivula. 'Hopefully, this will lead us to victory.'