THE Uprising Fiji International Sevens tournament has proved to be a timely build-up for the hotly contested Wellington 7s tournament.
For the past two years, Fiji and neighbouring nations taking part in the International Rugby Board (IRB) 7s World Series have used the Uprising 7s to prepare their national teams for the tournament in New Zealand.
The tradition continues as Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, Tonga and Samoa are fielding 'shadow' national teams in this year's event which kicks off today at Churchill Park in Lautoka.
Uprising Fiji 7s organising committee member Tahitia Kamea said they were happy to provide a home based tournament as build-up to national teams for the Wellington and other IRB 7s tournaments.
"Basically we, the organising committee, are made up of rugby loving people and it's by chance we hold the tournament before the Wellington 7s with the idea to help the Fiji 7s team with its preparation."
Fiji Rugby Union has named two teams - the Digicel Fiji Barbarians and FMF Fiji Warriors - from the 21-member national training squad.
The teams will be coached by the Fiji 7s head coach Alifereti Dere and his assistant Timoci Wainiqolo.
Sevens guru Gordon Tietjens has brought a NZ Emerging 7s side which has new players vying for spot in the All Blacks 7s team for the upcoming IRB 7s series tournaments.
Michael O'Connor is back with his Australian Thunderbolts team along with a Samoan team coached by Samoa 7s head coach Tausa Faamaoni Lalomilo.
Former Fiji 7s assistant coach Etuate Waqa, who is now the Tonga Rugby Union sevens director, has also brought a side from Tonga.
The Uprising 7s, which is played under the IRB 7s series format, also features top local clubs and will finish tomorrow.
Here is what the national teams' coaches have to say about the Uprising 7s tournament:
Gordon Tietjens (NZ Emerging 7s)
It's a great concept. Playing 7s rugby in Fiji is one of toughest to be in. We got a young side and we will see how they fair against top players in Fiji to be considered for tournaments in the HSBC 7s series.
Faamaoni Lalomilo (Samoa)
We would like thank the organisers for inviting us again. We have some players who are injured from the last leg and we brought new players for this tournament so it gives us chance to look out for performance of the players before selecting the team for Wellington.
Timoci Wainiqolo (Digicel Fiji Barbarians)
This tournament is good for us to set the platform for the boys for the next leg of the HSBC 7s series. We are fielding two teams from the 21 players we had in the national squad. This tournament will give us a chance to look at how the players perform and it's up to the selectors on who they pick for Wellington 7s.
Etuate Waqa (Tonga)
This tournament is important for us. It is where we measure ourselves against the other teams in the tournament. Playing in Uprising 7s especially against the top teams from Fiji and overseas, you won't come across better preparation than this for Wellington 7s.
I think it's a great tournament with the best 7s players in the world and the best 7s teams playing. For instance, Red Rock which won the Coral Coast 7s, if it was in the HSBC 7s series, it would have been one of the strongest teams. Every game is a tough game and that's the thing we like about coming to Fiji. In Fiji we don't have any easy games.