Champions Fiji wants home Sevens tournament
RUGBY SEVENS: Fijian sevens captain Osea Kolinisau is looking forward to home-away-from-home support at the Sydney Sevens but even that raucous atmosphere would pale in comparison to a World Series tournament being played in Fiji.
Koliniseau, the skipper of the Fiji's Olympic champion team, enthusiastically backed calls to move the dying Wellington sevens tournament to Fiji or Samoa.
The New Zealand event was once among the most popular on the world circuit but interest in Wellington is now as dead as a dodo and last weekend saw paltry crowds of 10,000 a day.
It seems inevitable the Wellington tournament will be relocated and legendary Kiwi sevens coach Gordon Tietjens - who now coaches Samoa - suggested a Pacific Islands event would be hugely popular.
Asked if he'd like to see a World Series leg in sevens-mad Fiji, Kolinisau said: "Hell yeah, definitely."
"To have one at home would be amazing and we would get to the show the world how Fiji people are really crazy about sevens," Kolinisau added.
"It would be sold out two or three months out."
Fijians are so obsessed with sevens that when their team returned home from Rio with their gold medals, it took the team 10 hours to drive the three-hour drive from Nadi Airport to Suva.
"I have told (South African star) Cecil Afrika, when you come to Fiji people will want your autograph and he said "why is that?". People love sevens and they follow different players," Kolinisau said.
New Zealand captain Scott Curry said it would be disappointing if the Kiwis were to lose their home tournament, and said it would be up to the NZRU to investigate other cities other than Wellington.
"It is disappointing what's happened with the Wellington tournament," Curry said.
"That's the only tournament we get to play at home, and to get not much of a crowd there, is really disappointing for the players."
Sydney was fast becoming a tournament known as a big party, said Curry, and Kolinisau said the memory of a huge section of Fijian fans in Allianz Stadium last year was still fresh.
Sydney has the biggest population of Fijians outside of Fiji and each time their beloved sevens team played, vocal support and blue flags dominated the Moore Park venue.
"I thought we were playing at home," Kolinisau said.
"We are expecting them to be out in big numbers again, with the flags, and help carry the boys forward this weekend."
Fiji have five survivors from Rio in their 12-man squad, and like many other nations, are undergoing a transitional phase. The biggest absentee from the team bus is former coach Ben Ryan, who stepped down after the Olympics.
Ryan is in Sydney as an ambassador for HSBC, however.