Fiji's fringe players raring to go
Fiji's fringe players ready to impress at Singapore Sevens to stake claim for place in Rio squad
As Fiji coach Ben Ryan makes five changes to his squad ahead of this weekend's Singapore Sevens, a number of new faces will be using the tournament at the National Stadium as an audition for the Rio Olympics in August.
With the defending champions drawn into a difficult Pool A together with Samoa, England and Portugal, the substitutes, including forward Nemani Nagusa, are fully aware that they need to hit the ground running.
"It's really crucial to perform; this team have so much talent and good players in it," said the 27-year-old, after a training session at Yio Chu Kang Stadium yesterday.
"Everybody has to fight for a spot; it's now my chance this weekend to impress coach and the management so that I can make it to the next leg and also to the Olympics."
The Fiji team, who take on Samoa in their group opener at 12.12pm tomorrow, trained for more than hour in the sweltering afternoon heat, with Ryan putting them through numerous passing drills and practice games.
Despite the sweat and mud on their kits, the Islanders were fully committed as they charged the full length of the pitch, often yelling out cues at each other.
"I have to work harder since this is my first two months, and some of these guys have played last week," Nagusa added.
"But these players are all talented, so we don't separate the ones who have been playing from the new ones.
RESPECT AND TRUST
"Everyone comes into the team for the jersey, so we respect each other and trust that they will do their best to do their jobs on the field."
Ryan, who is eyeing back-to-back titles after their triumph in Hong Kong last weekend, revealed that he will pick only those players who are still in the reckoning for the Olympic Games to turn out at the National Stadium.
"We are giving the opportunity to some players but, at the same time, making sure that the players representing us this weekend are the ones who still have got a chance for the Olympic Games," said the Englishman.
"I've probably got about 11 of the side decided, so there's one more spot for three players that I'm still deciding on.
"We want to make sure we have a team that's capable of winning the tournament."
With Ryan previously saying that he will change half of the line-up that competed in Hong Kong, playmaker Emosi Mulevoro, 28, is gunning for a spot in the starting seven.
"There is some pressure, but I have to try and play to get into the final seven," said Mulevoro, who is also one of the replacements brought in for the Singapore leg.
"It's going to be tough because there's a lot of competition in the team, but this is the tournament that I have to impress in to be in the Rio squad."
For Nagusa, representing Fiji at the Olympics will be a great honour, as the Islanders are eyeing a historic gold medal.
"People back home are really looking forward to the Olympics since Fiji have never won a gold medal," he said.
"So, this is a good chance for us to win one, and people are giving their full support to the boys for the Olympics."
World Rugby partners Puressentiel
Ahead of this weekend's Singapore Sevens, World Rugby yesterday unveiled a four-year partnership with aromatherapy giant Puressentiel.
As part of the deal, the French company will distribute its products to affiliated rugby federations, while its medical team will train World Rugby medical staff in the use of natural treatments for sports injuries.
"The key message for rugby is to keep rugby clean, and the message delivered by Puressentiel is that the products that they have are clean, with health benefits," said World Rugby chairman Bernard Lapasset, at the launch event held at Pan Pacific Singapore yesterday.
Puressentiel managing director Rocco Pacchioni said athletes must be responsible for what they put into their bodies, especially as anti-doping agencies look to clamp down on errant users.
"We can make natural products today that are as effective as chemical products, and we see the substances that are being taken out every three months after a new report," he said.
"There are always some people who get caught.
"But now, they think more; they know that if they want to have a long career in the sport, they have to be careful about what they use."
Puressentiel deals in products such as massage oils, purifying sprays and muscle heating patches, and counts San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker and reigning Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain among its partners.
Lapasset added: "It's important that we open this contract here in Asia, because in Singapore it's a new step for the Sevens, and we have a new generation playing rugby in this part of the world."
- AQIL HAZIQ MAHMUD