3 Oct 2013

Sport: Qualifying spots up for grabs at Oceania Sevens Championship

6:07 pm on 3 October 2013

A place at the Hong Kong Sevens and next year's Commonwealth Games is on the line at the Oceania Sevens Championship, which kicks off in Suva on Friday.

Australia, Samoa, Fiji are already guaranteed a berth in both tournaments, with five other countries hoping to join them.

Vinnie Wylie reports:

IRB core teams Australia, Samoa, Fiji are using the Oceania tournament as a build-up for next weekend's opening leg of the new World Series season on the Gold Coast. The best placed team outside of those three will earn a spot in Hong Kong and at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. One of the leading contenders is Papua New Guinea, who missed out on a spot at the Gold Coast tournament, after finishing behind Tonga at last month's Pacific Mini Games. But their coach Warren Jennings is hopeful their hard work will pay off.

"WARREN JENNINGS: We've got a similar situation, if you like. In terms of our ranking we're ranked fifth and we need to finish fourth to secure qualification. Hopefully we can do one better than we did in Wallis and Futuna, beat our ranking and qualify. We've got Fiji, Tuvalu and Cook Islands in our pool: we really need to do well in that first game, not only because it's the first game of the tournament and the day but it's obviously pretty crucial in terms of the pool points and it will give the boys plenty of confidence going forward."

That first game is against the Cook Islands.Their squad includes a handful of new caps that helped win the Oceania Cup 15-a-side tournament in July. Captain Ashley Drake says their whole seasons rests on the next few days.

ASHLEY DRAKE: We're going to have six trainings I think before we go into this tournament, no games. Papua New Guinea, they've had a good build up, they've got plenty of resources, they've been in Australia for a month I think preparing plus they had a Mini Games tournament. They're well prepped, where with us we've got just the heart and desire and just keen to achieve our goals. We won't be going in half-hearted - have to throw everything, put all our eggs in one basket and just go for gold. That first game is critical, looking to go all out and leave nothing behind.

The other countries competing for a qualifying spot are American Samoa, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu. The Acting Vice President, International, of the Solomon Islands Rugby Federation, Anore Kativerata, says it's been a long time since they last competed in Hong Kong and would mean a lot for the sport back home if they can secure their place.

ANORE KATIVERATA: I think back, way back a few years back, we've been going to Hong Kong and then this will be a next level to Solomon Islands rugby and we're looking forward to move it on from here. We'll be in as underdogs, but we're looking forward to being one of those qualifying teams to go up as far as Hong Kong and so forth. We've got the speed and also our preparation - we are well-prepared.

Meanwhile the Oceania Women's Sevens competition will also take place over the weekend in Noosa with New Zealand, Australia, Samoa, Fiji and Papua New Guinea all in attendance.