The Fiji Airways Fijian 7s team are ready to embark on their North American adventure of the HSBC World Sevens Series, hoping to leave behind some of the controversy that has dogged the team in recent weeks.
Fiji failed to advance past the semi-finals of the Sydney Sevens in early February after storming to a spectacular victory in Hamilton, New Zealand a week earlier.
Off the field, there are some concerns after captain Kalioni Nasoko – who is included in the squad – pleaded guilty to drink driving and will learn his fate on March 29. Meanwhile, another sevens player, Emenoni Nasilasila, is accused of raping a 24-year-old woman last year and had his bail extended to March 4.
The off-field issues prompted one rugby writer to describe the Fijian sevens team as being in “chaos” but, with such a wealth of depth at his disposal, coach Gareth Baber is going about his business as best as he can ahead of the Las Vegas Sevens from March 1-3 and the Vancouver Sevens from March 9-10.
— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) February 14, 2019
His main issue, according to the Fiji Rugby website, is a obtaining a visa for winger Alasio Naduva, who played in the San Francisco World Cup last year.
Isoa Tabu and Asaeli Tuivoka have fought their way into the touring party as the only key changes to the squad who contested the Hamilton and Sydney series.
“Isoa and Asa have worked hard to earn their inclusion in this squad in a very competitive training environment and I am comfortable that they will be able to do the job required of them for the team.” said Baber.
Rounding out the squad are Mesulame Kunavula, Sevu Mocenacagi, Josua Vakuranibili, Rt Meli Derenelagi, Paula Dranisinikula, Jerry Tuwai, Waiea Nacuqu, Teri Tamani, Vilimoni Botitu, Aminiasi Tuimaba and Naduva. Although numbering 14, the final squad will only be known once the visa issues are resolved.
In case Naduva’s visa application is delayed, Ulaiyata Batisavu is on standby to travel with the Team.
Fiji meet Scotland, Australia and Wales in Las Vegas, with the first game against Scotland in their pool games. Fiji are third in the world series standings on 72 points, four behind joint leaders USA and New Zealand.
Fiji Airways Fijian 7s touring party for USA and Canada 7s:
Rt Meli Derenalagi
Main photo: Fiji after their Hong Kong Sevens win in 2018. Credit: Hong Kong Sevens