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Baber wants to prepare two squads

Zanzeer Singh
Friday, February 23, 2018

FIJI Airways Fiji 7s coach Gareth Baber hopes to get two good squads in place to represent the nation at the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series Hong Kong 7s and the Commonwealth Games in April.

The Fiji 7s team left the for Las Vegas 7s on Wednesday in a move to settle early in the United States.

Baber said he was trying to develop a group of players.

"If they play well and are winning tournaments then they are the ones who are going to hold on to the positions with the edition of four or five others," he said.

"Once I grow that group towards 18, 19 and 20 then I will get somewhere to have two squads that can go and represent us possibly at the Hong Kong 7s and Commonwealth Games."

The Hong Kong 7s will be played from April 6-8 and will be the prelude to the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in Australia from April 13-15.

Since the inception of rugby 7s at the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 1998, Fiji has failed to win the gold medal.

Baber copped a lot of criticism after Fiji's slow start in the 2017-2018 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, however there has been some reprieve after the win at the Hamilton 7s in New Zealand earlier this month.

Baber said having big local support overseas was a great motivating factor. However the national coach said the criticisms hurt the players.

"My job is to keep focus on the bigger goal as to where we are going and how we get there," he said.

"I love being a coach, sometimes it is infuriating but sometimes it is fantastic. It is an easy motivator to say to the players, look how many people have come here to support you.

"They spend their hard earned money to follow you as a team and that's your responsibility. But also on the other hand you got to say that you are playing for more than that.

"You are playing for your nation Fiji, playing for your families and your faith. And the boys recognise that responsibility.

"But it hurts with some of the comments that come back. The boys are trying. I mean that's a horrible situation to be in. They try every time they go out there. They are human beings."

Meanwhile Alosio Naduva and Mesulame Kunavula will join the team later this week after sorting out some personal issues.

Fiji won the Las Vegas 7s tournament back to back in 2015 and 2016.

The side will face Russia in the opening pool game at 12.06pm next Saturday.

The next game will be against France at 3.07pm and the final pool match will be against Kenya at 8.36am next Sunday.

The quarter-finals will follow the pool games on the same day while semi-finals and final will be played on Monday.

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