This time last year I was bringing a couple more players in to the squad in consideration for the Olympics. I’d been having conversations for a while, in some cases for almost two years, so that I could get them into a series tournament before we chose the training squad for the Olympics.
I always enjoy bringing in players from outside the group. It becomes a litmus test to see if the systems you have set up are robust and good enough for a new player to come in, understand them, and abide by the values and rules your culture and environment work within.
Leone Nakarawa, then at Glasgow Warriors, was let loose in Paris on the HSBC Sevens World Series and immediately showed how good a footballer he was. The “lamp post” showed that you can also attack the space ABOVE a player to get line-breaks! A lovely guy off the field – he was an instant hit.
Leone Nakarawa with, from left, Chris Cracknell, President Major-General (Ret’d) Jioji Konrote, Ben Ryan, Leone, and Jeremy Manning at the State House in Suva.
Talking of hits, Josua Tuisova also came in for the Paris leg of the Series. He had played the previous Sunday for Toulon and we didn’t get him until the Wednesday leading up to the Paris tournament. Two training sessions and a quick one-on-one chat was all he had pre tournament. That shows you how well he knew the game and how clever a footballer he is.
Josua Tuisova training in Santiago, Chile, in preparation for the Rio Olympics.
Josua was on scintillating form both sides of the ball, making the tournament dream team and sending a message to all the other teams that not only did we have Rawaca and Viriviri as outstanding wingers but we also had the Viti Bus, and boy did he motor!
The fantastic Waisea Nayacalevu, star of the Stade Francais and Flying Fijians, also played and such was the quality of competition in that Rio team that he was was one of the unlucky ones to miss out that time on selection for the Olympic team.
Waisea Nayacalevu training on the beach in Fiji.
Where the Olympic team are now
With the news this week that Masivesi Dakawaqa has joined the NRL and Canberra Raiders, I thought I’d show where the remaining members of the Fiji’s Olympic Men’s Sevens team are now. “Sharkie” as he is known – his surname means shark in Fijian – was an injury replacement for Save Rawaca from the semi-finals onwards in Brazil, having been a mainstay that season. His game is very well suited to league and with THE RIGHT MENTORING AND CARE, he could soar. I say that in capitals as that’s the crucial part for many Fijians moving across to NRL in particular. Look after them, value them, and mentor them and the results will be fantastic.
Ok, here’s what the rest of the gang are up to now…..
- APISAI DOMOLAILAI – in Fiji and part of the current Fiji Sevens team in the HSBC Sevens World Series.
- JASA VEREMALUA – in Fiji and part of the currentFiji Sevens team in the HSBC Sevens World Series.
- JOSUA TUISOVA – starting for Toulon in the Top 14 and fast becoming one of the best wingers in the world. Aged 22.
- KITIONE DAWAI – signed a one year deal with Stade Francais and playing in the French capital.
- LEONE NAKARAWA – moved over in the Summer to Racing 92 and referred to as one of the most exciting locks in world rugby.
- SAMISONI NASAGAVESI (VIRIVIRI) – Sammi is in Fiji and part of the currentFiji Sevens team in the HSBC Sevens World Series.
- SAVENACA RAWACA – Save signed at Christmas for La Rochelle, the French league leaders, as a medical joker.
- SEMI KUNATANI – Semi is at Toulouse, playing as a winger though his best position is undoubtedly in the back row. I hope they realise this soon as he’s a world star in waiting, but as a back row player.
- JERRY TUWAI – in Fiji and part of the currentFiji Sevens team in the HSBC Sevens World Series.
- VATEMO RAVOUVOU – in Fiji and part of the currentFiji Sevens team in the HSBC Sevens World Series.
- VILIAME MATA – after Rio, “Bill” moved across to Edinburgh and has settled in incredibly well playing at lock or six for the Pro 12 team.
- OSEA KOLINISAU – Captain of the team and most capped Fijian 7s player of all time. Now in Fiji and still leading the current Fiji Sevens team in the HSBC Sevens World Series.