27 Jun 2013

Sport: Three Pacific countries vying for title at Sevens World Cup

5:32 pm on 27 June 2013

Three Pacific countries are among a log-jam of teams preparing to challenge for world sevens supremacy in Moscow this weekend.

Wales are the defending men's champions after upsetting New Zealand and Samoa on their way to the 2009 title.

The tournament kicks off in the Russian capital on Friday and, as Vinnie Wylie reports, the build-up has been anything but predictable:

It's a case of 'back to the future' for Samoa, with former coach Stephen Betham taking charge for the one-off tournament, following the sacking of Faamaoni Lalomilo. Betham previously guided Samoa to the World Series title in 2010 before being appointed Manu Samoa head coach last year. With limited preparation time, Betham has opted to recall veteran playmaker Uale Ma'i, saying it's important to have some old heads in the team who know the game plan and and systems he uses. Fiji have also made headlines with World Series skipper Setefano Cakau dropped in favour of young blood. Head coach Alivereti Dere admits it wasn't an easy conversation.

"ALIVERETI DERE: It was a difficult decision because of his service to sevens rugby. He's been playing for nine years now."

Nemani Nagusa did make the cut but was wrongly prevented from boarding a flight to Seoul with his team-mates at Nadi Airport on Monday. Immigration Officials were acting on an out-of-date Stop Departure Order from the Sigatoka Magistrate's Court over a Family Action case. The Fiji Rugby Union has since received an apology and Nagusa is expected to arrive in Moscow in time for the start of the tournament. The final Pacific challenger is Tonga, who failed in their bid to gain a permanent berth on the World Series last month. Coupled with the Kingdom's financial woes, head coach Eddie Waqa says it's been a tough build-up.

NEMANI NAGUSA: Most of our focus was in London 'cause we wanted to get back into one of the core teams and we know we didn't make that. Especially for the problems we are facing here in kingdom. Financially, because of our preparation, it's really been hitting us hard all the time, when we get prepared fro all the big tournaments. But we've put that all behind us. We've come up with a good team, physically - we can be there and compete against Fiji and Wales and Uruguay, also.

World Series champions New Zealand are among the other favourites for the men's title, along with South Africa, but captain DJ Forbes says they can't think too far ahead if they're to end their 12-year World Cup drought.

DJ FORBES: It's been a while since we had the World Cup, and you could almost say it's a similar situation to the All Blacks. And I know, as far we're concerned, it's just one game at a time to even have a chance of being there at the end. We need to take care of our pool games.

Samoa and the Philippines have the honour of kicking off the tournament on Friday morning local time while in the women's draw, Fiji play Spain, the USA and Brazil.