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Changes to 7s plan

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

IT will be a different ball game for the Digicel Fiji 7s team as the Fiji Rugby Union will take on a new approach to ensure that the team is thoroughly prepared to take on the best in the world of 7s at the 2013 7s Rugby World Cup in Moscow and the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

The team has less than six months to prepare for the 7s World Cup and FRU's national coaching director has mapped out a plan that has three important components to help the team become very competitive in order to win.

"What we have decided is that we need to identify a group of players that will be extremely competitive and be at World Cup and Olympic standards in order to win," Franck Boivert said.

"The only way we can do that is to keep these core players together all the time in order to develop them into great rugby players. That way they will be able to operate as a team and we will have strong players who can attack and defend well and are ready to take on any challenge."

Boivert says that the identification of the core team will be on December 27 at the fitness test for the fourth leg of the IRB World 7s Series in Wellington.

"At the fitness test we will identify a group of 21 players and the whole reason behind picking a core team of 21 players is because we want to have three players for each position.

"This is to ensure that if something happens in terms of a serious injury or a player is contracted to an overseas club, than we have another player ready to take up the vacant position.

"There is a selection committee who will identify these 21 players and we will do our best to turn them into a great team."

For each leg of the IRB World 7s Series, the coach will select the final 12 that will make up the team, but not before consulting with the medical board and the strength and conditioning trainer first.

Boivert says that the first important component is the medical board because they will evaluate the state of injuries the players have and make sure that the injuries are well taken care of.

"The medical board will play a crucial role because we want to make sure that the players selected are as fit as possible, both medically and physically and without any niggling injuries."

Boivert says that in terms of developing a strong and competitive team they will have to be in camp regularly.

"The nine non-travelling reserves will also be in camp with the final squad because when the team travels for each leg, the non-travelling reserves will remain in camp until the team returns and then they regroup. They will have to keep training and there will also be a medical, technical and fitness follow-up."

He went on to say that after each tournament the selection committee will reconvene and they will do an analysis on the strengths and weaknesses of the team and adjustments will be made if the need arises in the lead up to the World Cup and the Olympics.

"Depending on the evaluation after each tournament, the same 12 could either represent Fiji at the next tournament or a replacement could be picked from the non-travelling reserves."

If one of the players fails to perform to expectation at the tournament, Boivert says that it does not necessarily mean that the player will be put out of the core team.

"That is what the analysis will be about, to find out whether we can fix the problem and hopefully one of the non-travelling reserves will be able to replace him. The thing is we have to change the mentality of what coaching is all about.

"Coaching is about developing a player, it is not about picking a player and throwing them away because our job as a coach is to develop and teach a player. Our purpose is to take someone and make him into a great athlete and a great rugby player."

As for overseas-based players who have stated their interest to play for the Digicel Fiji 7s team at the World Cup, Boivert says they will also be considered.

"The European season ends in May, and some of our star players who play in Europe will be available then. Those players may join the 7s team only if they can bring something special to the team, then again that is for the selectors to decide.

"There is a possibility of maybe one or two players joining the team but not necessarily because what we want to do is develop a group of players who play well together and not a big group arriving and disrupting the whole work that is being done so far. These overseas-based players will be the cherry on the cake but not the core of the team, that's how we are going to proceed in terms of selection."

The second important component is the strength and fitness of a player. It is no secret that to have the best rugby team in the world, diet and nutrition also play an important role that will mould the players to become not only fast but also strong and agile.

"What I have noticed is that the other teams are challenging us on the collision because at the collision area they are stronger. So therefore we need to have our players very strong as well and they need to increase their muscular mass in order to compete in this area.

"There is only one or two of our players that can really compete in that area, like Nemani Nagusa, so this is an area that we need to improve on and the only way we can do that is by having a very strong monitoring program whereby we follow up on these players regularly, hence the reason we need to keep them in camp very often."

It will be the same thing with the fitness and technical area whereby we will have a player's profile that will analyse thoroughly his strengths and weaknesses so that when we have individual practice we will know what technical area the players need developed.

The third important component identified by Boivert was the pattern of play.

"We know the game that Fiji needs to play to win the World Cup and the Olympics. It is a complete package where the team has a lot of attacking and defence pressure. But in order to play that game, we need to develop a certain pattern of play using of course the quality of our players."

He added that the pattern of play does not appear out of thin air but instead needs to be practised regularly in order for the players to function as a unit offensively and defensively.

"Not only do they need to win their one on ones with the opposition but they also need to have collective answers to the pattern the opposition is going to play."

Recently it has been obvious that opposition teams have been thoroughly analysing the way Fiji plays and have been able to counter every trick in the book that the team has.

"What we need to do is counter those defensive patterns with having more than one solution in their collective game. That is the purpose of developing a pattern of play which we would be able to improve on, from tournament to tournament."

With these three components identified, Boivert added that it was very important to keep the core team together regularly to be able to develop them technically and tactically and build them up for each tournament.

"If we keep these players together they will get to know each other and they can easily guess their play. For example, Setefano will know exactly what Nemani will do and the team will be able to function as a unit." The French national said that a good example was the Portugal 7s team which has been improving at every tournament.

"They have a good game pattern they are limited in their resources but at least they use their resources to the maximum of their potential which is something we don't do.

"The same too with Spain they rely on the pattern of play and they fall back on things they know is working for them. We need to do something similar in order to give confidence and direction to the players so that they know what to do when they step on the field.

"Right now we are surviving on individual effort which we cannot rely on any longer because the way 7s is being played now is at a really high level. The intensity is very high at each game and it is very difficult for the players to be always at the top of their game."

He said with a solid pattern of play, which they are very keen on, the team would have something to fall back on.

"For instance if we know that we have a very strong defence on the goal line, then we can fall back on that in order not to panic but to find solutions in a game where things don't go that well.

"If we know that we have very strong points in the attacking pattern and things don't go well then we can go back to those strong points that we know about and will be able to get out of difficult situations."

Video analysis is another area Boivert has identified that plays an important role. The coaches will be able to objectively analyse the strengths and weaknesses of the team and their opposition. It will also help them get facts and figures and also pin-point areas where the team is failing and where they are succeeding.

Training and preparation adjustments will also be made based on the video analysis and the coach will be able to educate the players on their strong and weak points.

"We will also be able to analyse the opposition. What we have developed is that we take the other teams for granted thinking that we are the king of 7s which we aren't anymore. We are just like any other team."

So therefore we need to analyse the opposition thoroughly to be able to attack them on their weak points and try to avoid their strong ones."

As for players who fail to keep up with their daily training programs and diet plans when not in camp, Boivert says that it is the coach's responsibility to educate the players and that it is about time everyone stopped blaming the players.

"It is our job as coaches to educate these players, we must not think that players are irresponsible. We know the players personally and they are very responsible people because they want to learn, improve and compete.

"My philosophy is to never blame the players but I always blame myself if the player fails. His failure means that I did something wrong in his education and that I failed in his psychological approach."

He says implementing all these components will not be a smooth ride and there are bound to be mistakes, but once there is a system in place it will help the team progress from one tournament to another.

"We want to engage in a thorough job and it may sound good on paper, but the challenge will be to implement it properly. "

The team is expected to march into camp on the first week of January 2013.

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