Fiji’s men’s sevens team will make their first appearance since striking gold at the Olympic Games in August when they take to the field at the Oceania Rugby Sevens Championship on home soil in Suva on Friday and Saturday..
Women’s gold medallists Australia are also present in a tournament that gives both teams the ideal platform to hone their skills and try out new combinations and tactics ahead of the defence of their respective HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series crowns.
Fiji’s interim head coach Nacanieli Cawanibuka, who was strength and conditioning coach under Ben Ryan, is fully aware of the pressure on them to perform in front of their own fans given what the team has achieved in the last 12 months.
"Well, there is no bigger motivation than that and I think it has been a long time since we played on home turf," Cawanibuka said.
"We also totally understand that the people's expectations are really quite high and we are doing all we can to prepare ourselves as best as we can"
"The boys have been thinking and talking about it the whole time they have been in camp. We also totally understand that the people's expectations are really quite high and we are doing all we can to prepare ourselves as best as we can for the competition."
Cawanibuka will remain in charge of Fiji until newly-appointed head coach Gareth Baber officially takes up his post early next year.
The men’s tournament will comprise 10 teams playing in two round robin pools with finalists determined on the pool play results. Fiji will face Tonga, Papua New Guinea, American Samoa and Nauru in Pool A, with second seeds Australia tackling Samoa, the Cook Islands, Solomon Islands and New Caledonia in Pool B.
Tough challenge awaits Australia
The women’s championship will comprise seven teams - Australia, hosts Fiji, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, the Cook Islands, Tonga and Solomon Islands - playing in one round robin pool with the top team declared the winner.
With less than a month until the opening round of the world series gets underway in Dubai on 1 December, Australia women’s coach Tim Walsh wants his charges to continue their progression following on from their victory at the Central Coast Sevens in October.
“We have had a great preparation period leading into this tournament and we are looking forward to continuing to build momentum towards Dubai,” he said.
“We know that this tournament is going to be incredibly tough and we will need to adapt to the challenges that come our way.
As well as playing for regional pride, teams also have the opportunity to secure an invitational spot for selected rounds on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in 2016-17. From the men's competition, the top non-core series team will earn the right to play as the 16th team in the Wellington and Sydney rounds next year. The top two non-core teams will be Oceania's representatives in the 2017-18 series qualifier in Hong Kong in April.
In the women's event, the top team outside of Australia and Fiji will earn a place at the HSBC Sydney Sevens in February and also at the 2017-18 HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series qualifier.
Photo: Bruce Southwick/Zoomfiji