Pacific sevens teams to reflect on performance over Christmas
Fiji and Samoa reflect on the first two rounds of the World Sevens Series.
Fiji and Samoa have plenty to think about over the Christmas break after a high-octane start to the new World Sevens Series.
Both teams impressed in the season opening tournament in Dubai but disappointed a week later in Cape Town.
Vinnie Wylie spoke with both camps.
Fiji remain atop the World Series standings despite having to settle for fifth place in Cape Town. A week after winning in Dubai, the defending World Series champions let a 14-0 lead slip in their Cup quarter final against France. The team was affected by a bout of food poisoning after winning in Dubai, a tournament that also took a physical toll on the squad. But head coach Ben Ryan says all things considered they're in a good position.
BEN RYAN: We're still top of the tree, albeit on points difference ahead of South Africa but that's something that we probably would have taken at the beginning of our trip, before Dubai. If someone had said at the end of Cape Town you'd be standing at number one in the series it's a good start-point for us and if you look at last season we came third in Dubai and Plate runners-up in South Africa, so we're about six points ahead of where we were this time last year."
Samoa made the Cup quarter finals in Dubai and were unlucky to miss out a semi final spot. They were unable to match that effort in Cape Town, slumping to defeats against France, New Zealand and Scotland en-route to an underwhelming 13th place finish, which drops them to 11th in the overall standings. Head coach Damian McGrath says they struggled for consistency.
DAMIAN MCGRATH: In the cold light of day looking at the scores to finish in the bottom quarter looks as though it's been a failure but it was if, buts and maybes for us - we could have been in a completely different position. As disappointing as it was to finish in the bottom four we could easily have been in the top half again so I'm very positive going forward.
Injuries haven't helped the Manu cause - the team only had 11 fit players in Dubai and were down to nine at the end of the Cape Town tournament. The worst of those, Francis Ieremia, is facing Christmas in a South African hospital after breaking his leg during their pool match against France and will miss the rest of the season. Damian McGrath says the game is evolving at a rapid pace.
DAMIAN MCGRATH: It's amazing how attritional sevens has become: as fast as it gets it seems to get more and more physical along the same lines, which makes it very exciting for fans to watch but it takes a real toll on players bodies. This second weekend has caught a few teams I think and shown how durable the players have to be to play in the series. I certainly think that carrying just 12 players now, in the modern game, is not enough - I think you should be allowed to carry a minimum of 14 players.
The New Zealand and England teams have also been beset by injuries but Fiji coach Ben Ryan has a theory as to why his team has been able to buck the trend.
BEN RYAN: I'm pretty pleased really that we've come through this and we've had no major injuries whilst all around us teams are falling over. Our strength of our conditioning, our robustness, our nutrition, our prehab, our rehab and the way we structure training is showing and has shown for the last 18 months and we just have not had any significant string of injuries in a cluster.
Both the Fiji and Samoa teams will now get a couple of weeks off to recharge the batteries over Christmas before beginning preparations for the next leg in Wellington at the end of January.
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