Fiji upset as World Rugby ignores Olympic Games gold medal-winning sevens team at awards ceremony

They were the first Pacific Island nation to claim an Olympic Games medal when their men’s team won the tournament in Rio de Janeiro

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 November, 2016, 1:14pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 November, 2016, 1:16pm

The Fiji Rugby Union will express its “concerns and disappointment” to World Rugby after their Olympic Games gold medal-winning sevens team won none of the major prizes at the sport’s annual awards ceremony.

Fiji was overlooked for the team of the year award, which went to New Zealand’s All Blacks who posted a world-record 18 consecutive test wins before losing to Ireland in Chicago last week.

They also missed out on coach of the year award, which went to All Blacks coach Steve Hansen over Fiji’s England-born sevens coach Ben Ryan, and sevens player of the year which was won by South Africa’s Seabelo Senatla.

The Fiji Rugby Union (FRU) questioned why none of its “deserving nominees” received an award at the glittering ceremony in London and said that, while they respected the achievement of the All Blacks, they believed Fiji’s gold medal success was more significant.

Fiji became the first Pacific Island nation to claim an Olympic medal when their men’s team won the sevens tournament in Rio de Janeiro.

Sevens rugby is Fiji’s national sport, part of its national culture, and the gold medal success galvanised the country.

Fiji’s sevens players return home to a heroes welcome after landing country’s first Olympic gold

Ryan and the players were rewarded by the Fiji government with cash payments and awards of land.

The FRU said they believed the impact of their sevens team, who won back-to-back World Sevens titles before winning gold in Rio, “had a far greater effect on the game of rugby globally” than the All Blacks.

Watch: Fiji sevens captain Osea Kolinisau

“We believe our sevens team, with the meagre resources available to them, have outperformed any other team in 2016,” the FRU said. “The rugby world expects the All Blacks to do well because they have all the resources available to them.

“The impact [Fiji sevens player] Osea Kolinisau has had on the game of sevens in the last two seasons far outclasses any performance by Seabelo Sanatla.”

Fiji said they are “in the process of expressing our concerns and disappointment to World Rugby.”