Fiji chase ‘White Whale’ at Gold Coast Commonwealth Games Rugby Sevens

0
Fiji chase 'White Whale' Gold Coast Commonwealth Games Rugby Sevens
Fiji's players getsure during their semi final match against New Zealand at the 2013 Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament in Moscow on June 30, 2013. AFP PHOTO / YURI KADOBNOV (Photo credit should read YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images)

This weekend’s Rugby Sevens competition has many sides all hoping to taste ‘gold’ but in 2018, Fiji chase their own personal ‘White Whale’ at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games Rugby Sevens.

Over the history of men’s competition at the Commonwealth Games, one prize has eluded the South Seas Island nation. Crowned World Champions, Sevens Series champs and more–but never holding the gold medal. So the sold-out Robina Stadium, Fiji hope to defeat all comers, and write their names on the list of champions.

16 men’s teams will compete for the Gold Medal from April 13-15, with South Africa as the defending Commonwealth champs. The draw has been broken into four groups of four teams. Download the full schedule here

  • Pool A: South Africa, Scotland, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia
  • Pool B: England, Australia, Samoa, Jamaica
  • Pool C: New Zealand, Kenya, Canada, Zambia
  • Pool D: Fiji, Wales, Uganda, Sri Lanka

Fiji chase ‘White Whale’ at Gold Coast Games

Fiji has won everything when it comes to rugby sevens. Their white whale has always been the Commonwealth Games gold medal. Ever since the inaugural rugby sevens competition in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 1998, they have never won Gold at the games.

They have won two World Cups, three HSBC Sevens Series and are the reigning Olympic Gold Medalists. They have won the toughest sevens tourney in the world 18 times. First team to win three-in-a-row in Hong Kong and last week first team to win four-in-a-row.

Undoubtedly, Fiji are the best exponents of the game but even the best have their own personal Moby Dick. They won silver in Kuala Lumpur in 1998. Silver at Manchester, England in 2002 (see below picture). They won bronze at the Melbourne Games in 2006. Fiji missed out in 2010 and 2014; due to political upheaval/bans from the Commonwealth.

Fiji chase White Whale
The Fiji Team with their silver medals after defeat in the New Zealand v Fiji Men’s Rugby 7’s Final at the City of Manchester Stadium during the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England on August 4, 2002. New Zealand won the final 33 – 15. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Those medals mean little, as Fiji want to be the best, so that ‘white whale’ has to be tamed. So if the Fiji legend wants ‘cover all the bases’ of rugby sevens titles, then the Commonwealth Games is their focus point.

Gold Coast Commonwealth Games Rugby Sevens: The LOWDOWN

South Africa will be the favorites – the current HSBC Sevens Series champions – with Fiji chasing their elusive Gold Medal. However, don’t count out the four times champs New Zealand. Nor can you discount hosts Australia.

The underdogs will be Kenya, Wales and Scotland.

Men’s Draw – Pool C

New Zealand

Four times champions New Zealand have the players to win…. if they stick to their patterns. They get lost often in recent years, especially when they are starved off the ball. They need aggression and determination. Captain Scott Curry will be a link, to join his group together in the important pool games.

A late withdrawal of Joe Webber is a blow. The veteran of 2014, he is replaced by Akuila Rokolisoa; who made an impressive debut for the All Blacks Sevens in Hong Kong last weekend.

Andrew Kneewstub will be vital off the bench, along with veteran Tim Mikkelson leading from the front. Click here for full squad.

Kenya

With back-to-back World series finals recently, the Kenyans are real contenders. With players like Collins Injera, Daniel Sikuta, Billy Odhiambo, Oscar Ouma, Willy Ambaka and Andrew Amonde, these men can beat any opposition.

Team work will be the element needed most by the Shujaa. Stay on their game, they might defeat New Zealand for the second consecutive time – to the surprise of many. Click here for full Kenya squad

Canada

The inclusion of Admir Cejanovic will bring strength to the Canadians. They need consistency and to build their attack around game maker, Nathan Hirayama.

They can surprise the masses this weekend, if they put their minds to it. One chance is all that they need, so the Saturday evening clash against New Zealand will be the key match for the Maple Leafs. Click here for full Canadian squad.

Zambia

Zambia will cherish this opportunity to play with the best players in the world. They will be enthusiastic and will fight all the way. Click here for full squad

Men’s Draw – Pool D

Fiji

They have a star-studded side, with arsenal that can fire from anywhere on the field. The Fijians are chasing their elusive Gold and will be eager to win.

Watch out for Sevuloni Mocenacagi and Jasa Veremalua, who didn’t feature in Hong Kong. click here for full squad

Wales

The Welsh have boosted their side with the inclusion of Hallam Amos and Justin Tipuric. Their experience will help the seasoned sevens players.

Luke Treharne, Luke Morgan, Ben Roach, Morgan Williams and Ethan Davies will spearhead their campaign, as they aim to pick-off Fiji (if they get distracted by the tourists tropical attire). click here for full squad

Uganda

Philip Wokorach is the key for them if they need a good outing. The Cranes will be their in the opening minutes, and will ask questions of the big boys. Solomon Okila and Andrew Kasito will add depth and innovation to the side. Click here for full squad

Sri Lanka

The Peter Woods coached side will be giving their best against the more experienced sides the world. A side who normally face inter-continental matches, this is a step-up. Can the Asian side show they have developed?

This valuable learning experience will spread the game within the Asian nation. click here for full squad

Pools C and D – What to Expect?

Plenty. Even if it were only these eight teams competing, it would be a fantastic tournament. But the most important thing to ‘respect’ is…..the format.

In the Olympic format, there are no quarter-finals. That means, teams have to top the Pool; that means Fiji ‘has to beat Wales [which might be a foregone conclusion]. So too, New Zealand must Kenya and Canada first, before looking at any knockout matches.

Fiji have been guilty of this before, and the focus they have had in recent legs of the World Series means they are looking good to reach out, and take those medals

Be it a ‘white whale’ or injury or opposition. Each team need to expect competition, at the pinnacle event for Commonwealth nations.

Read more on Pools A and B here.

_______________________________________________________________________

The women open the weekends play, on Day One. The men’s team play their pool games on Day Two, with the semi-finals and all important Gold Medal matches on Day Three.

Follow all the action with us on Facebook and Last Word on Rugby, on Twitter.

 

“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images

LEAVE A REPLY

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.