Simon Amor saw up close what an unstoppable force Fiji can be as the losing coach in the gold medal match of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
Jerry Tuwai was in the Fijian side that day and the World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Decade returns for a second Olympics as captain.
And Amor believes that Tuwai has every chance of following in the footsteps of 2016 captain, Osea Kolinisau, and leading Fiji to the gold medal.
“Based on the Oceania Sevens just gone, where they had a clean sweep of wins, I think they’ll be favourites,” Amor said.
“Generally you are looking at two things with sevens – you are looking at form and experience. Realistically there is not a lot of form to go on so therefore you are looking at experience and the Fijian boys have a lot.”
“New Zealand have been building brilliantly under Clark Laidlaw and they have got an incredibly experienced team too, with guys who were playing when I was playing – people like Tim Mikkelson and Joe Webber, who have been there and seen it all before so that will come through.”
Blitzboks can go it alone
South Africa – the only other team to win a World Series, bar Samoa in 2010 – go into the tournament without venerable head coach Neil Powell.
Powell is isolating after testing positive for COVID-19, but Amor believes the Blitzboks won’t be too adversely affected by the setback.
“It will be a loss, and half-time will be different, but if ever there was a team that could manage without their head coach being there, it is South Africa, because of how strong their culture is and how much the team drives that.”
Amor anticipates three teams going through from Pool A (New Zealand, Argentina and Australia) and Pool C (South Africa, USA and Ireland) and just two from Pool B, with Great Britain taking the slot behind Fiji.
The 42-year-old led Great Britain to the silver medal in Rio despite only 10 weeks of preparation time together and the soon-to-be Hong Kong 15s coach feels this group will be equally tight-knit under coach Tony Roques.
“I think the adversity they have gone through will have bonded them very closely,” he said.
“The fact they have had to do a lot of their training under very rigid COVID regulations means they’ll be better able to deal with the tough discipline required on a minute-by-minute basis than other teams.”
Repechage win “gold dust” for Ireland
Ireland are the romantics pick for the gold medal – and not just because they have former Love Island winner, Greg O’Shea, in their squad.
The journey that Ireland have gone on from European also-rans to a respected World Series team with Olympic credentials in the space of five to six years is nothing short of remarkable.
And Amor reckons their rapid ascent up through the rugby sevens ranks will continue in Tokyo.
“The team I am expecting to go well is Ireland,” he said.
“They have been blessed in having the repechage. Everyone else has had competitions but being under pressure and playing when it matters most is absolute gold dust.
“They have some really great players in Billy Dardis, Jordan Conroy and Harry McNulty, so they’ve got the talent and also the know-how in what it takes to win, which other teams haven’t had for a long time.”
But all the expectation will be on Fiji to deliver, and Amor expects them to pull through and deliver back-to-back gold medals.
“I think it will be Fiji, with the experience they have got. The demand for results will be high but I think this group, a very talented group, will be ready for it.”