Fiji women set bold target for Moscow(IRB.COM) Wednesday 12 June 2013
We caught up with Fiji women's Sevens head coach, Timoci Wainiqolo, as his side prepares for its first Rugby World Cup Sevens, in Moscow on 28-30 June.
While Fiji's men will arrive in Moscow among the favourites and as two-time winners, their women's team is still taking its first steps on the international stage, but that is not stopping the coach and players setting their sights high.
Fijiana qualified the hard way for the World Cup, going through two very competitive qualifying paths in both Oceania and Asia, and coach Timoci Wainiqolo says that the experience gathered on the tough road to Moscow will be a big help to his side.
"We had an open trial to prepare for this World Cup, which drew more than 100 women, including some that had never played rugby before and many athletes who had played other sports like hockey, netball, soccer, and volleyball," he said.
"We started with a pool of 32 players and now we have a 16-member squad. The number that turned up to the open trials is an indication of the interest out there in women's rugby and that is very positive for us and will stand us in good stead in Moscow."
The qualifying competition in Asia was of particular benefit to his young players, Wainiqolo adds, and Fiji were also part of the Women's Sevens World Series this year, taking part in the China round in March.
Aiming for a top-4 finish
"The outcome of our games in China was not so good but that does not dampen our spirits," he added.
"We have a good mixture of experienced players and speedsters and lots who gained important experience in the qualifiers and in China."
In Moscow, Fiji will find themselves up against more experienced opponents in their pool where they will face USA, Spain and Brazil but the coach, who led Fiji's men to the Gold Coast Sevens title in October 2012, is relishing the challenge.
"There’s nothing impossible if the heart is willing, because if there is a will, there is a way!
"We’re working hard and we’re looking forward to a tough and thrilling competition. We have some great players who are unique and brilliant in their own ways.
"We want to qualify for the World Series and we are going there with a top-four target. Fiji women's rugby gets very little coverage here and being part of the World Cup will massively help with promoting the game. We want to do as well as we can to contribute to the growth of the game here."
Wainiqolo also hopes that exposure on the world stage will help entice more women into the game from all over Fiji.
"Right now women’s rugby in Fiji is concentrated mainly in the main city of Suva. There’s a great need for development in the outskirts and rural areas and of course the schools. There are lots of talents out there and we just need to tap into them. We would like to have more regular competition as that is a must in order to draw and retain more players in the sport."