Oceania Sevens opens door to world stage
Fiji's new national Sevens head coach Ben Ryan is sure to court much of the media attention this weekend at the Fiji Water Centennial Sevens, and that will suit both Michael O'Connor and Viliamu Punivalu down to the ground.
The tournament in Fiji doubles as the Oceania men's Sevens championship, and O'Connor's young Australian side will be bidding to defend the title it won last year in beating Samoa in the final.
“It’s a good opportunity to play an international match and get some more game time before we kick off the World Series next week on the Gold Coast," said the former dual-code international.
“We’ve had a strong pre-season with players refocusing after the World Cup, and keen to get started with the new season.”
Punivalu, meanwhile, is himself fielding a young squad in his first competitive outing as Samoa's new coach, and has said that he will finalise his squad for the Gold Coast Sevens, round one of the HSBC Sevens World Series, after the tournament in Fiji.
Punivalu is taking eight new players under the captaincy of Patrick Fa'apale but has also hinted that Alatasi Tupou, Falamiga Selesele and Tom Iosefo could feature in Australia.
Tonga absence opens World Series net
Alongside the main Cup competition, likely if not guaranteed to be dominated by the big three, there is just as intriguing a sub-plot to play out over the weekend.
With Tonga absent from the competition the tournament offers a golden opportunity for two other sides to win the right to play on the biggest stage of all in 2013/14.
The two highest-ranked non-core teams in Fiji will receive entry into next year’s Hong Kong Sevens.
"There will be some very exciting and competitive match-ups across the two days," said Tournament Director, the IRB's Michael Groom.
"Teams have also targeted this event to gain qualification to the 2014 Commonwealth Games."
2013 Oceania Sevens squads
American Samoa: David Laban (capt), Joseph Poyer, Iakopo Atonio, Pentateuch Vaki, Feite Okesene, Nard Umayam, Maugalei Veavea, Iulai Pouvalu, Aiotaota Vailolo, Ross Poyer, Alesana Suiaunoa, Taeao Paaga
Australia: Martin Collins, Jack Cornelsen, Tom Lucas, Will Miller, Sam Caslick, Michael Adams, Alex Gibbon (capt), Peter Lee, Lausii Taliauli, Rohan Safoloi, Junior Laloifi, Paul Asquith
Cook Islands: Ash Drake, Louis Aumatangi, Greg Mullany, Harry Berryman, Junior Kiria, James Raea, James Iopu-Johnston, Justin Marsters, James Ben-Unu, Teina Savage, Junior Napara, Harvard Ioane
Fiji: Ulaiasi Lawavou, Manueli Lagai (capt), Jiuta Takubu, Samuela Saqiwa, Sakiusa Nadruku, Kelepi Namoua, Vucago Bainitabua, Ilai Tinai, Donasio Ratubuli, Benito Masilevu, Samisoni Viriviri, Sunia Kubu
Papua New Guinea: Shadrach Ghabiliha, Billy Torea, Alistair McLay, Jonah Kautu, Iisa Kautu Jnr, Hubert Iseraha, Albert Levi Jnr, Wesley Vali, Douglas Guise (capt), Nigel Genia, Dondon Kaias, Buttler Morris
Samoa: Misioka Timoteo, Fale Sooialo, Levi Asifaamatala, Oneone Faafou, Tulolo Tulolo, Sani Niue, Patrick Faapale (capt), Logofa'alii Toa, Samoa Toloa, Vavao Afemai, Fomai Ah Ki, Lole Tualaulelei
Solomon Islands: Thomas Mohu, Clive Tamua, Roger Tepai, Eddie Angikisau, Stewart Baiabe (capt), Felix Qalo, Mariano Kelesi, Harry Kemaiki, Joseph Masikwai, Leslie Puia, John Bakila, Steven Momoa
Tuvalu: Hetoa Taula (capt), George Soama, Safoka Apelila, Laijia Kurusalili, Troy Moimoi, Savenaca Seniloli, Pulusila Sagapolutele, Foilape Vailagi, Kee Menigi, Alatele Avia, Petelu Paisi, Vaitiu Talia