Fiji coach Gareth Baber is dealing with injuries and illness amongst the squad he hopes can retain the Olympic Sevens gold medal at the Tokyo Games later this year.
Despite concerns over the postponed games taking place due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Japan, Fiji have started their preparations by holding a series of tournaments at home to fill the void created by the cancellation of the HSBC World Series Series events.
However, injuries have been picked up in the early sevens tournaments with Onisi Ratave and former captain Kalioni Nasoko now receiving treatment while Jerry Tuwai, voted the best sevens player in the World during the last decade, is ill.
“We will make sure they get back into training before the next tournament. We did have Meli Derenalagi as well with his knee injury. There are things we are managing and we want them to be where they can be, come July. My job is to manage them now.”
While Baber has concerns of those key players, Fiji has seen a return to form of Kitione Taliga, one of the gold medal winners from the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Taliga and Vatemo Ravouvou were key playmakers in the gold medal-winning team and Baber added: “Taliga is getting better on his fitness. Taliga is an experienced player, has an Olympic gold medal around his neck. He has quality in his catch and pass, which is something we need. Vatemo (Ravouvou) used to play first, like Amenoni (Nasilasila) did. Taliga has got a great kicking game as well.”
The sevens series in Fiji could be followed by matches against other nations including Samoa, Australia and New Zealand if “bubbles” can be created to allow travel to the Islands. Before testing his men at international level, Baber wants to see an improvement in an area that has been a problem in recent years. “The discipline side is very important, it has been going well and I want to see that maintained throughout.”