It’s been 12 years since Fiji lifted the trophy at the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens. But this year, New Zealand coach Gordon Tietjens is tipping them as one of the strong contenders for the title.
"People might see us as the team to beat and clearly we'll be going all out to win in Dubai and win the World Series, but I think the sleeping giant is Fiji this year,” said Tietjens.
"They weren't at the Commonwealth Games, which was a real shame for them, but they'll go quietly about their business. They play sevens week in and week out in Fiji and I think that they will bring a very good side," added the New Zealand coach who led his side to victory in Dubai last year.
The Fiji team missed out on the Commonwealth Games after their island was suspended from the Commonwealth, but manager Sale Sorovaki believes that hasn’t affected their preparations for the upcoming season.
“We would have loved to have gone, but it was something that was out of our control. It hasn’t stopped us from preparing for the Series,” said Sorovaki.
“Our preparations are going well. We have a lot of new players in the team; A lot of young players and we are looking to improve on our ranking from last series,” added the manager whose side finished fourth overall in the 2009/2010 series behind Samoa, New Zealand and Australia.
Asked about Tietjens’ prediction that theirs was the team to watch this year, Sorovaki simply responded: “New Zealand has been the most successful team since the inception of the IRB circuit in 1999. They have always had good sides in recent years, and any team would be foolish to take them lightly. They are the team to watch.”
Fiji have been drawn in the same pool as England, Portugal and France and will play the opening international match of the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens against the Portuguese at 9.20am on Friday morning.
“Just like all teams participating, we would like to do well. We seem to have always struggled in Dubai because we have just finished our local 15s competition,” said Sorovaki.
“We are just trying to focus on little things and trying to do them well. The basics have been our weakness in the past and we are trying to improve in that regard.
“We have only four old players and eight new ones in this year’s team. We hope that our experienced players will help settle the new ones down and direct them the right way on the field.”
Commenting on the Dubai tournament, Sorovaki added: “Dubai is a special place simply because it is Dubai. It has grown tremendously in terms of popularity over the last decade and having the first leg here is always a pleasure. I’m sure all other teams agree that it is a popular destination, especially for a small nation like ours.”