Player suspensions, injuries and legal issues have forced the Fiji Rugby Sevens coach to make key changes for the Hamilton and Sydney legs of the World Series.
With two senior players suspended and another two returning from injury, Gareth Baber said he was confident in the pool of young players available for selection.
Fiji won December’s Cape Town tournament but Baber said changes have to be made from the last squad.
“There are two players who were suspended – Amenoni Nasilasila and Vatemo Ravouvou,” he said.
“We’ve got a couple back from injury – Josua Vakarunibili as has Paula Draunisinukula.
“We’ve got young boys who are making their way in the game. Looking forward to seeing them go alongside some of those players who have done so much in the last couple of years.”
Nasilasila was arrested last month for allegedly raping a 24-year-old woman in Sigatoka but was released on bail.
The 31-year-old’s case was adjourned until January 28.
But in good news, Dranisinukula had recovered from a suffering a fracture to his leg in November and passed all necessary fitness tests to make the squad.
“Paula has worked hard to put his hand up and get himself to where he needs to be for this tournament, he is an honest and noble character who knows what is needed to get across the line in these tournaments, ” Baber said.
The coach said that after a solid five weeks of training, selection was extremely competitive and the squad was prepared for the challenge ahead, including defending their Hamilton title.
He said the team was looking forward to the support they receive in New Zealand.
“We have fond memories of Hamilton last year,” Baber said.
“It was a tough tournament where we played Australia, NZ, Spain, Wales, South Africa and Samoa and were lucky to take the win against Samoa.
So we know this tournament will be tough.”
Kalione Nasoko will continue as the Captain for the next two tournaments.
Fiji face Australia, Argentina and Wales in pool play in Hamilton when the tournament kicks off Saturday January 26.
Fiji Sevens Squad for Hamilton and Sydney:
Kalione Nasoko (C), Paula Dranisinukula, Sevuloni Mocenacagi, Ratu Meli Derenalagi, Mesulame Kunavula, Josua Vakurinabili, Apenisa Cakaubalavu, Jerry Tuwai, Waisea Nacuqu, Terio Tamani, Vilimoni Botitu, Aminiasi Tuimaba, Alasio Naduva.