13 May 2016

Sport: Fiji add firepower, Samoa looking to build at Paris 7s

12:40 pm on 13 May 2016

Fiji aren't taking anything for granted going into this weekend's penultimate round of the World Sevens Series in Paris.

The defending series champs lead South Africa by eight points with two round remaining and are well-placed to retain their overall title.

But head coach Ben Ryan said the Blitz Boks were still capable of catching them.

"We're ahead of where we were last year but you've got to remember we were eight points down last year and we won the series by ten points so South Africa will be eying something similar with two strong tournaments to finish with for them so can't really look beyond getting through the group and then having a very strong and successful quarter final to get ourselves deep into the tournament."

Ben Ryan said with only a month since the last event in Singapore the focus this week has been on recovery and getting the squad back on the field and full of energy.

Fiji are without the injured Semi Kunatani in Paris but Ryan has welcomed back overseas-based fifteen-a-side stars Samisoni Viriviri, Waisea Nayacalevu, Josua Tuisova and Leone Nakarawa to the sevens set-up.

"Obviously good players, good blokes (who) seamlessly fit into the culture around the team and I'm happy to have them here. It's not changing the thinking having some of these overseas guys. I think what the media and the public have to realise is I don't tell you all everything. The media and public don't need to, nor do I want to, tell you the machinations of how we're planning and programming in our season and I certainly can't see it as a knee-jerk reaction because we're ahead in the series, so it's been a plan for 12 months."

Leone Nakarawa makes a run against Wales at RWC 2015.

Leone Nakarawa makes a run against Wales at RWC 2015. Photo: Photosport

Samoa looking forward

Samoa already have one eye on next month's Olympic sevens qualifying tournament and say the World Series legs in Paris and London are all about getting the team ready for June.

The Manu won their second Plate title of the season last month in Singapore, where they achieved major victories against Fiji and New Zealand.

Head coach Damian McGrath said his team is starting to show more consistency.

"They've proved in this last tournament (beating) Fiji, New Zealand and Fiji in Vegas. These players for all their lack of a professional background and their amateur status they've proved that they can punch way above their weight and they're longer they're involved and the longer they get the chance to condition with our staff - the better they get so I have every confidence."

Etuefa Fiavaai replaced Phoenix Hunapo-Nofoa, who is unavailable for family reasons, in the only change to the Manu squad for Paris.

Samoa sevens coach Damian McGrath.

Samoa sevens coach Damian McGrath. Photo: Facebook / Manu Samoa

Damian McGrath said the next two weekends are all part of a much bigger picture.

"It's all building towards the 18th of June. The World Series legs that come up in Paris and London we'll put competitive teams out but it's all about preparing for what comes in June. We've only a small squad so we want to make sure we keep all our players fit and healthy. We've got to get over a fairly gruelling travel schedule, to go all the way to Europe with all that entails, in terms of the jet-lag, come all the way back to virtually turn around and do the same again so that's my biggest worry at the moment as opposed to the rugby side, which I'm pleased with the progress we're doing."

Samoa have been pooled together this weekend, for the fourth time in the past five World Series legs, and face Wales and Scotland respectively on day one.

The captains pose before the Paris 7s.

The captains pose before the Paris 7s. Photo: World Rugby / Martin Seras Lima