Fiji Sevens Team



  • From the Times re the Fiji 7's team. Theres some sureal stuff in there. It also feels REALLY "Brit has made Fiji good at Sevens!". Like they were rubbish before the white bloke stepped in & gave the balls instead of plstic bottles....
     
    Briton puts Fiji in line for first Olympic medal Ben Ryan’s regime of ‘no booze, no phones, no junk food’ has given sevens team hope of gold,
     
    writes Owen Slot | 1160 words
     
    Probably the No 1 celebrity in Fiji is an Englishman. He is red-haired and his skin wasn’t made for the sun. But they love him so much that there have been babies named after him and a rock song released about him. He also has his own TV programme; he is asked to judge Miss Fiji; and even though he drives a standard Hyundai, his car is recognised and mobbed if he drives around Suva, the capital. This is Ben Ryan, born in Wimbledon, celebrated in Fiji. Who knows what they will make of him there if he guides Fiji to their first Olympic medal? From the day that sevens was admitted to the Olympics, it was apparent that Fiji, after 15 Olympic ducks, might finally open their account on the medal table. In fact, Ryan will only really be happy with gold. Fiji certainly weren’t favourites when he arrived from England three years ago. On his first day, he did fitness testing with the squad he had inherited and the highest score in testing was his own. And he was 42.
     
    After their first tournament, he decided to smash them in training with a succession of 100-metre runs up and down their training pitch.
     
    After just one, he found Seremaia Tuwai, one of his star players, hiding behind a bush. But they then won their second tournament, in Dubai, and Ryan’s legend — and something of a cultural revolution — began to take root. Fiji had never had a foreign coach before. They had never, for instance, had anyone to tell the players what to eat. The breakfast buffets at tournament hotels are the worst, Ryan says. In Dubai, he recalls one player piling his plate with eight eggs and eight pains au chocolat. “I said: ‘What are you doing?’ He says, ‘Eggs are good, bread’s good, no?’ ” So they were educated to have a lot of colour on their plates. Not just white — rice and pasta, with ketchup. Colours equal fruit and veg. “Now, they come and show me their plate and ask, ‘Is this all right?’ ”
     
    They all get it now, though Tuwai is addicted to chocolate. When they are away, he knocks on Ryan’s door and asks him for it. “I took him to the dentist,” Ryan recalls, “because he needed eight teeth extracted. We sat him in the chair, he got terrified and ran away. Before the next tournament, I said, ‘If you don’t go, you’re not selected.’ ” Initially, Tuwai would often be a no-show at training. “So I’d drive round to where he lives,” Ryan says, “and he’d be playing volleyball on the roundabout. I’d say, ‘You should be at training.’ And he’d say, ‘I didn’t want to.’ That’s a world-class player, and he hadn’t made the connection between training and playing.” They all get that now too.
     
    Ryan has had to buy into the culture he himself set. When he says no drinking after tournaments, he means it, not even a couple of relaxing beers. “It’s island mentality,” he explains. “If it’s there, it’ll all go.” This year, he brought in a breathalyser and on mornings after tournaments, when they were doing pool recovery, he’d pick on three of them. They knew the rules: you test positive, you’re gone. “Now they know, they laugh,” Ryan says. When they see him coming, they say: “I’ll have a go.” Likewise, no phones at tournaments. Why were so many of his players tired at tournaments, he asked himself. Because the hotels have free wi-fi and so they were on Facetime and Facebook all hours. So they all hand their phones in. Ryan too.
     
    The first time they did it, they won the tournament. For the Olympic campaign, they’ll be phone-less ten days before it even starts. Slowly, slowly, they have come to understand what he is bringing to them. He, too, has understood what they were bringing to him. These are uncoached players whose talent has been honed on beaches and scrubland. Why have Fijians long been so poor at the breakdown? Because they don’t do the breakdown on the beach. Why have they never been good at long passing? Because the “balls” they play with tend to be bottles filled with sand, and that encourages short passes and offloads. Why did they always tackle high? Because with everyone offloading, the defenders want the ball, not the players’ legs. And kicking? No chance, not with those sand-filled bottles.
    Yet what Ryan also found was a nation so engrossed in sevens that knowledge and understanding of the game was immense. World series sevens tournaments are played on loop on national television. Saturday night must-watch television — think The X-Factor in the UK — is Ryan’s rugby programme when he teaches technique such as the lineout lift. So that cliché about Fijians being so naturally gifted is only partly true. The reason they stand apart is because they play endlessly. Wi-fi is scarce. Therefore the kids play outside and sevens is their game of choice. This, according to Ryan, makes them uniquely intelligent rugby players: “What they have which is better than anyone else is the ability to see what’s in front of them.” He won’t coach them on a whiteboard, he says, because “once you actually show the boys something, they get it instantly.”
     
    Likewise, they don’t have an analyst, and neither will Ryan spend hours doing the analysis for them. He says: “I just give them my laptop, and tell them, ‘Here’s the game, if you see anything of interest, let me know.’ “They’ll all watch it and then come back to me with brilliant insight. They’ve played so many hundreds of thousands of hours, their collective understanding is outstanding.” It was when disaster struck that Ryan understood what kind of squad he had developed. The cyclone at the end of February killed 44 people and damaged or destroyed 40,000 homes. Two of Ryan’s players had their homes obliterated. It struck in the early hours of a Friday.
     
    Their next training camp was the following Tuesday, to prepare for the next tournament on the schedule, in Las Vegas. In the interim, almost all the players had been living without running water or electricity and it had been baking hot. And as the grid was down, no one could communicate. On the Tuesday, Ryan waited at training to see who would pitch up, and one by one they trooped in. “They came in like they’d been at war,” he recalls. “Some had walked eight hours to get on to the road to thumb a lift to training.” Only one player, one of those whose house had been destroyed, didn’t make it. Ryan recalls: “We tried to train and they had nothing. So I said, ‘Right, you’re going to bed.’ ” At their training base, there is a hotel with a generator, owned by a rugby-mad fan. So the players slept there. Ryan got them food and massages. They did nothing for three days but recover. “We won Vegas at a canter.”



  • Ha! Maybe if Fiji win; the gold should really be added to the UK tally.
    To be fair to Ryan he's added a professionalism that wasn't there beforehand.
    Fiji have now won two years in a row after only having won one series in 15 years prior. A truly terrible record.



  • Ha! Maybe if Fiji win; the gold should really be added to the UK tally.
    To be fair to Ryan he's added a professionalism that wasn't there beforehand.
    Fiji have now won two years in a row after only having won one series in 15 years prior. A truly terrible record.

    Yes, given how much stock Fiji place in 7's one series win in 15 years is underwhelming.    
     
    I am going to be supporting them at the Olympics.  I would love to see them win a medal for the first time ever and for that medal to be Gold.   
     
    Ryan has had to buy into the culture he himself set. When he says no drinking after tournaments, he means it, not even a couple of relaxing beers. “It’s island mentality,” he explains. “If it’s there, it’ll all go.” This year, he brought in a breathalyser and on mornings after tournaments, when they were doing pool recovery, he’d pick on three of them. They knew the rules: you test positive, you’re gone. “Now they know, they laugh,” Ryan says. When they see him coming, they say: “I’ll have a go.” Likewise, no phones at tournaments. Why were so many of his players tired at tournaments, he asked himself. Because the hotels have free wi-fi and so they were on Facetime and Facebook all hours. So they all hand their phones in. Ryan too.

    Clearly he has transformed their approach which was, let's have a laugh to let's get serious about winning.



  • I enjoyed that.
     
    I find myself hoping they win too.



  • EIGHT teeth extracted ???? what the fuck ?????
     
    Articles like that don't exactly paint the islands as a professional Super power do they ?



  • But they aren't a professional super power so why would they try and portray them that way? He is highlighting the exact opposite which is quite remarkable given their results



  • But they aren't a professional super power so why would they try and portray them that way? He is highlighting the exact opposite which is quite remarkable given their results

    Well no they're not you're right but they're still a team pretty close to the top ten in 15s are they not ?
     
    The article makes it sound like they're less professional than they probably are.....



  • I actually got a feel of the rawness of it, so wouldn't be entirely surprised if they do lack that professionalism.



  • and super power is a pretty strong descrip[tion of a international rugby union., I would only class England, SA, NZ  as true rugby super powers



  • I actually got a feel of the rawness of it, so wouldn't be entirely surprised if they do lack that professionalism.

    Yeah but they're a team that's actually been to every single World Cup ( I think ) and have a reasonable record in 15s.....and of course we all know what they've done in Sevens......
     
    It would be awesome if they got their first ever medal though, they're a real chance.



  • If we can't have the gold I'm more than happy for Fiji to take home the gold chockie medals



  • Yeah but they're a team that's actually been to every single World Cup ( I think ) and have a reasonable record in 15s.....and of course we all know what they've done in Sevens......

    It appears not 1995 ...
    Would love them to get a silver to our gold.
    I'm not that altruistic...



  • Well no they're not you're right but they're still a team pretty close to the top ten in 15s are they not ?
    The article makes it sound like they're less professional than they probably are.....

    I think Fiji are one of the biggest underachievers in world rugby at 15s, so yeah I reckon lack of professionalism must be debilitating to make a country with 700,000 odd ethnic Fijians so hopeless.
    Good at 7s mind, even if underachieving, but still very good, in that also since professionalism.



  • but maybe the rigid structures of a professional environment might stifle the natural flair and instincts that makes the Fijians such a joy to watch (even when they lose they are more often a good team to watch)



  • but maybe the rigid structures of a professional environment might stifle the natural flair and instincts that makes the Fijians such a joy to watch (even when they lose they are more often a good team to watch)

    Yeah definitely part of that too.
    I was reading recently something about the concerns about the French academies signing young Fijians to get around their own rules. John McKee was lamenting that even the young playmakers were getting turned into wingers in these overseas academies. Your Fijian, you're a winger. So they have wingers, plus converted wingers coming out of their ......
    Put it this way, IMO if their were 150,000 ethnic Fijians living in NZ (like there are 150,000 Samoans in NZ) then Fiji would be ridiculously good at 15s as well.



  • at the last World Cup it was very un-Fiji like. Their set piece was not only rock solid, at times it was dominant. But they lost a bit of their creative spark, probably hampered by Volavola at 10, who was usually the worst player on the park.
     
    But, it's not too far a stretch to say that in another pool they may very well have qualified for the quarters.



  • Well done Fiji!



  • So happy for the Bula boys, after the cyclone earlier in the year the country deserves this joy



  • wonder if they went back to work!



  • wonder if they went back to work!

    Doubt it, can't wait to see them celebrating on the news tonight.