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Changes crucial for improvement

Rashneel Kumar In Hong Kong
Wednesday, March 26, 2014

VODAFONE Fiji 7s coach Ben Ryan made a tactical change to his team for the Hong Kong 7s making two crucial changes on Monday.

Robust Joeli Lutumailagi and lanky Samu Saqiwa replaced Leo Naikasau and Jasa Veremalua, respectively, for the three-day tournament which starts this Friday.

Veremalua will, however, play in the Hong Kong Tens tournament, which starts today, to work on the areas that Ryan wants him to improve on.

Ryan said the changes were result of a "combination of things" leading up to the Hong Kong 7s tournament in So Kon Po.

He said the experience Lutumailagi and Saqiwa had brought into the camp would bolster their campaign this weekend.

Lutumailagi had been brought to cover up for the rover's position.

Ryan also confirmed speedster Samisoni Viriviri would be "fine" to play in the tournament.

"I was always wary of the short turnaround time of five days so we can't afford to carry too many people really with injuries," Ryan said.

"We have a couple of concerns with some knocks. Dono (Donasio Ratubuli) was a bit bashed up in the weekend so I needed to have really good quality cover there so Joeli has come in for that reason.

"He was unlucky not to get in selection because he wasn't quite fit enough for Tokyo because of his back injury he got in Marist.

"Leo has been really unlucky he missed out really because we had to cover a position that probably isn't his natural one as rover so he has done nothing wrong and I felt sorry for him."

Ryan was also impressed with Veremalua's commitment and is adamant the former Red Rock player would reclaim his spot in the team soon.

"I didn't give him too much game time and again he's been pretty unlucky. I said to Jasa, he's got everything I want for an international 7s player, he just needs to pick up on his defence, his one-on-one tackles and once he does that, I'm sure he will get back into the team.

"He will go to the Tens and work on that and I have brought in Samu Saqiwa who is probably better than him defensively at the moment.

"I'm really lucky that I got the ability to pick such good players."

In a repeat of last year's Hong Kong 7s final, defending champions Fiji will take on Wales at 1.26am on Saturday followed by the match against Sri Lanka at 5.24pm.

The Osea Kolinisau-skippered side will face Kenya in its final pool match at 11.16pm the same day.

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