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A prelude to the 7s world cup

Kameli Rakoko
Friday, May 03, 2013

FIJI sevens rugby fans will have a sneak preview of how our national team will fare in the June Rugby World Cup Sevens in this final leg of the HSBC Sevens series.

After the injury to Waisea Nayacalevu and withdrawal of Nikola Matawalu, only Metuisela Talebula will be the new inclusion to the sevens squad unless Matawalu changes his mind.

Coach Alivereti Dere is likely to maintain the squad that won in Hong Kong unless William Ryder, Rupeni Caucau, Seremaia Burotu or any other former national sevens rep now playing overseas makes a sensational performance in the remaining local sevens tournaments.

So whatever we witness in Scotland and England will be nearly the same side we expect to see in Moscow.

Like a true Fijian with the country in his heart, Talebula has taken early leave from his club and last week took part in a local sevens tournament and ended up helping the side to victory.

However, there are also many changes to the line-ups of Fiji's pool opponents and Australia will be much tougher with the return of two regulars from injury as the side prepares for the penultimate round of the 2012/13 HSBC Sevens World Series in Glasgow, Scotland.

The Australians are currently ranked eighth in the world series, after a third-place finish in Tokyo gave them a crucial boost ahead of the final rounds, and Allan Fa'alava'au and Jordon Tuapou are both included for an important tournament ahead of the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow.

"With the World Cup so close and with the relegation system in place, sides are playing desperate footy and the gap between the top and the bottom has narrowed significantly," coach Michael O'Connor said.

"This is such an important tournament. These last two are critical for our standings and to keep that momentum going into the world cup."

While Fa'alava'au and Tuapou both return from injury for the first time since the Wellington Sevens in February, Australia will be without forwards Tom Cusack and Jesse Parahi, who both received injuries in Tokyo.

Australia faces Argentina, Fiji and Spain in pool play at the Glasgow Sevens.

The Digicel Fiji 7s team has set its sights on finishing second in the series.

With New Zealand holding an unassailable lead in the competition, Alivereti Dere's men will be out to conquer the Scotland and London tournaments in a bid to move up the final standings.

Fiji will face Spain at 9.52pm on Saturday. The second game is against Argentina at 12.58am on Sunday followed by the final pool match against Australia at 5.15am.

Fiji's other pool opponent Argentina has recalled Joaquín Díaz Bonilla, Francisco Merello, Diego Palma and Ignacio Pasman for the European climax to the nine-round Series.

In the seven rounds played so far, Argentina has made three Cup quarter-finals and failed to reach the last eight most recently in Hong Kong and Japan, that string of results leaving them tied for eighth place in the standings with Australia.

In the pool rounds of the Scotland Sevens they face the Australians as well as Fiji and Spain, and will be looking for a strong performance heading into the final event of the Series, the Marriott London Sevens at Twickenham.Bottom of Form

South Africa sevens coach Paul Treu will be without the injured Cecil Afrika and Branco du Preez. Afrika and Du Preez both played incisive roles in Tokyo, where the South Africans won the tournament to move up to second place in the world series standings behind New Zealand.

Afrika (knee) and Du Preez (groin) were pulled out of the touring squad on medical advice, but could still be available for the final round of the series in London.

The unavailability of the two players means 19-year-old WJ Strydom, who has been part of the national sevens elite player development squad, will make his debut.

Treu, however, welcomes back Paul Delport and was delighted to include Justin Geduld and Seabelo Senatla. Both youngsters just toured Argentina with the South Africa under-20 training squad recently and could be named in their Junior World Championship squad on Thursday.

In a third change from the Tokyo winning squad, Pieter Engelbrecht replaces Tshotsho Mbovane.

South Africa will face Samoa, Canada and Kenya in Pool A of the Scotland Sevens, to be played tomorrow and Sunday at Scotstoun Stadium in Glasgow.

With the two overseas-based players Fiji coach Dere had planned out of the picture, will he stick with the locals or seek the services of two other overseas-based players to fill in the spots ?

That's the big question that will be answered this weekend and the next.

There's Emosi Vucago the other option at halfback and if Ryder, now playing in France, proves himself in local tournaments as Dere has required of him, then we are in for some exciting times.

Caucau is back playing in New Zealand but has made no real commitment to making a last hurray in the Fiji jersey.

These two Bua men had unique talents as gamebreakers in their heydays and if they prove that they still have what it takes and get the nod to play in Moscow, Fiji will be devastating.

Imagine Fiji's arsenal including a three-pronged Bua attacking unit.

The razor-sharp, smooth as silk attack of Joji Ragamate, the deceptive, goose-stepping, bamboozling footwork of Ryder and the explosive power of the Caucau rocket.

Only time will tell.

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