Editorial comment – Count down begins

Fiji Airways Fiji 7s coach Gareth Baber during the team's training session in Sydney, Australia earlier this year. Picture: FT FILE

The only thing left for national sevens coach Gareth Baber to do yesterday was say “bring it on!” One couldn’t help it but be awed by the squad he has selected to head across to the United States to prepare for this month’s 7s rugby World Cup in San Francisco. It is a “who is who” of rugby. On paper, the squad brims with all the vital ingredients for a top-of-the-range sevens team. There’s size with the intimidating physical presence of players such as Leone Nakarawa, Semi Radradra, Semi Kunatani and Josua Tuisova among our lineup of giants upfront. There’s pace, skill, experience, exposure to intense matches at the highest levels of competition, coupled with flair and confidence. As if that isn’t enough, we have a number of players who were part of our historic victory at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. We now have about three weeks to prepare for the World Cup which will be played from July 20-22. Still reeling from defeats at the Commonwealth Games at the Gold Coast in Australia, and in the Sevens World Series, fans are looking forward with excitement to the US. That’s where all hope is focused on our team living up to expectations. Lest we forget though, while the soccer World Cup may be a totally different ball game, it does offer us lessons that we must embrace. Hosts Russia proved that it takes much more than just possession to win soccer matches. It really is all about strategy, and putting the ball into the goalmouth. They defended well against former World Cup winner Spain and kicked them out of the tournament. Big names Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi went in as famous inclusions for their sides, Portugal and Argentina respectively, yet came undone, bombing out of the tournament early. The star-studded Germany didn’t do well either and failed to get into the stage that matters at the soccer World Cup. We may be good on paper for now heading into the 7s World Cup. We must never forget though that every team heading to the US would be better prepared. They would definitely be refining strategies to use against Fiji should they bump into us at any stage. How we fare will no doubt be determined on the days of the tournament. That’s where commitment, enthusiasm, focus, discipline and composure could separate the winner from the rest of the pack. That’s where the team that wants it the most may just edge all others in the race for the title. For now, our team must travel to the US confident, they have our support. They must believe in themselves for they are carrying the hopes and aspirations of a proud nation punching well above its weight.

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