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Tuwai back as Fijian men defend Olympic rugby sevens gold

July 5, 2021 GMT

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Rio de Janeiro gold medalist Jerry Tuwai will captain the defending champion Fiji men’s team in the rugby sevens tournament at the Tokyo Olympics.

Tuwai was a member of the Fiji team that won gold in the first-ever Olympic sevens competition in 2016.

The 2019 World Sevens Player of the Year will lead an experienced Fiji team which will start among the gold medal favorites in Tokyo. Coach Gareth Baber made the final decision on the makeup of his 12-man squad after Fiji’s win at the Oceania Sevens tournament late last month in Townsville, Australia.

Baber said he had gone for a mixture of power and pace.

Kalione Nasoko, Josua Vakurinabili, Meli Derenalagi and Asaeli Tuivuaka provide the power up front while Waisea Nacuqu, Napolioni Ratu, Aminiasi Tuimaba and Vilimoni Botitu add speed in the backline.

“I’m really excited in what the group brings,” Baber said. “It’s a balance between the power which is a big part of our game and the pace that we are able to put into it. We continue to look to command the aerial battles on the field as well as developing our strength at set-piece.”

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England-based star Semi Radradra will join the Fiji team in Tokyo next week after missing the Oceania tournament. Baber expects Radradra to easily fit into the Fiji squad.

“I know him as an individual, an athlete and he keeps himself in a supreme condition,” Baber said. “He is blessed to have the skill level of a sevens player even though he predominantly plays 15s and has done remarkable work for us when he played for us either in sevens or 15s.”

Fiji has been drawn in Pool B at the Olympic tournament along with Britain, Canada and Japan. Competition begins on July 26.

The Fiji women’s team is missing two key players, Vani Buleki and Luisa Tisolo, who were injured at the Oceania Sevens.

Coach Saiasi Fuli is confident in the squad he has chosen which includes 2016 Olympians Rusila Nagasau — the team captain — and Rejieli Daveua. Fiji finished eighth overall in Rio.

Most other players have been a part of the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series. Newcomers include Sesenieli Donu, Reapi Uluinasau and Laisana Likuceva.

“We were blessed to play against New Zealand and Australia where I had an opportunity . . . to see who can take up the challenge when needed,” Fuli said.

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Fiji squads:

Men: Kalione Nasoko, Josua Vakurinabili, Meli Derenalagi, Iosefo Masi, Asaeli Tuivuaka, Semi Radradra, Vilimoni Botitu, Waisea Nacuqu, Napolioni Bolaca, Jiuta Wainiqolo, Aminiasi Tuimaba, Jerry Tuwai (captain). Reserves: Sireli Maqala, Kitione Taliga, Joseva Talacolo, Kavekini Tabu.

Women: Rusila Nagasau (captain), Rejieli Daveua, Sesenieli Donu, Vasiti Solikoviti, Reapi Uluinasau, Tokasa Seniyasi, Viniana Riwai, Ana Naimasi, Aloesi Nakoci, Laisana Likuceva, Roela Radiniyavuna, Lavena Cavuru. Reserves: Lavenia Tinai, Ana Maria Roqica, Rejieli Uluinayau.

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