Canada claims the Legends Division of the FANCA Muslim Silver Jubilee tournament with a 4-3 shootout win against Australia at the Prince Charles Park in Nadi, Fiji : FANCA photo

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Learn form 2018, go local, Gareth

Opinions / Analysis

FIJI Airways Fijian men’s 7s team is hard at building a competitive team for its Olympic gold title defense in Tokyo, Japan in July.

And from what head coach Gareth Baber has hinted, that while he has penciled his training squad, no one has yet been inked a spot on the team have observers believe our coach already has a team.

The Shadow Fiji team that won the 45th Fiji Bitter Sapphire Marist 7s is likely the go to the Olympic side unless that changes with the inclusion of the overseas based players.

It is hard though, not to forget that Semi Radradra, Josua Tuisova, Semi Kunatani and Leone Nakarawa made Rugby World Cup Sevens team that played at the AT&T Park in San Francisco, and despite sevens legend giving our countrymen 98 percent to win, out men flopped badly.

We lost to New Zealand, 22-17, in the semifinals and South Africa, 22-19, for the third-place finish, so what is to suggest their inclusion will spring in things differently.

Not that these players are any bad, they are world class athletes, it is just that they are in their thirties and fitness and playing in the high intensity sevens game involves repetitive high-speed running with short recoveries between running bouts as well as frequent intense contact and collisions.

Better yet, it is the physical fitness and conditioning that better prepares players to perform at all levels of the game.

Besides Radradra, it was evidently clear the rest were not fit including Tuisova, who played through a shoulder injury, aggravated it, and showed discomfort, while Kunatani pulled a hamstring.

Our coach, Baber had spoken highly about these players ahead of the RWCS, but following defeats to New Zealand and South Africa, he took a swipe on the fitness level on these players, in both the games we were out witted and out played.

For Semi Kunatani has declared unavailability and if Tuisova and Radradra are willing to join the team they should send their intent.

That is, negotiate with their clubs for release and join the training squad at an earliest, otherwise Baber’s best bet would be to go all local players.

And as for Nakarawa who was at his meanest best during the Rio Olympics Games, making the team is all but over.

If the locals hold our ticket to Tokyo Olympics Games, then they must ramp up on Baber’s intensive training guidelines, respond accordingly and impress.

This includes the mainstays, Kalione Nasoko, Meli Derenalagi, Josua Vakurunabuli, Jerry Tuwai, Asaeli Tuivuaka, Waisea Nacuqu, Napolioni Ratu, Jiuta Wainiqolo, Alosio Naduva and Livai Ikanikoda.

Same is expected out of former Olympian, Kitione Taliga, Iosefo Masi, Josevata Talacolo, Onisi Ratave and Sireli Maqala.

The regulars of the HSBC World Series, who made the Shadow Fiji team must remember that Tokyo Olympic Games are far greater in competition than the Raiwasa Tavueni team that tested the mettle.

The Garden Island of Fiji team ran a clinic of their own as Baber’s men were at sixes and sevens, each time they came from behind to win it, 7-5, 14-12.

The Shadow Fiji team was also tested by Wardens, winning 14-10 on a review call and reversal of the decisions.

Raiwasa Tavueni and Warden just did not thrill the fans with good rugby but dropped seasons jaws.

The teams made of the ordinary made the extraordinary look ordinary.

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