BY ROMULUS HUTA
THE Solomon Islands national sevens rugby team has been drawn against Australia and Tonga in Pool C of this year’s Oceania Rugby Sevens Championships.
The 2017 Championships will be held at the ANZ Stadium in Suva, Fiji over two days – Friday 10th – Saturday 11th November.
The pool draws for the championship were released yesterday by the Federation of Oceania Rugby Union (FORU) while fixtures are expected to be made known by the mid of October.
The national sevens team is currently training at the moment for the tournament in Fiji, and according to previous media reports, they are shaping up well.
A total of 13 countries are competing in the men’s sevens competition alongside Solomon Islands and hosts Fiji. The others are New Zealand, Australia, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Cook Islands, American Samoa, New Caledonia, Nauru, Vanuatu and Tuvalu.
The men’s event will see teams vying to take the championship title from Fiji, including HSBC Series core teams Australia, Samoa and New Zealand.
According to the Oceania Rugby media, FORU also announced yesterday that the Fijian Government is committing to secure the event for the next 3 years as host.
The Hon. Laisenia Bale Tuitubou, Minister for Youth and Sports, Fiji Government together with Oceania Rugby Women’s Director, Cathy Wong, Rugby Services Manager Oceania, World Rugby, Bruce Cook and Mr John O’Connor, Chief Executive Officer, Fiji Rugby Union confirmed the event’s return and the Fijian Government’s support at the Grand Pacific Hotel, Suva yesterday in announcing the 2017 event.
Hon. Laisenia Bale Tuitubou when asked about the funding said, “We see this as building on the outstanding success of our rugby teams in the Olympic Games last year and supporting the bid by the FRU (Fiji Rugby Union) to host a leg of the 7s Series here on our doorstep. We hope that home ground advantage will help our teams out-perform all our visitors, including the defending Olympic women’s rugby champions!”
Following the success of the 2016 Championship the event will again combine the both the Men’s and Women’s events. The 2017 Championships will be held in Suva, at ANZ Stadium over two days, Friday 10th – Saturday 11th November, and will be the perfect lead in to the start of the 2016-2017 Men’s and Women’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series that kick-off in Dubai in early December.
Ms Cathy Wong, Women’s Direction Oceania Rugby noted that across the Pacific and in Fiji, rugby is a key way that people come together, gain status, and celebrate Pacific life adding,
“Oceania Rugby is committed to bringing International events to the Pacific Islands. With a record 21 teams in this year’s competition we look forward to showcasing the Gold Standard that is Rugby in Oceania to the rest of the World. I’d like to thank the Government of Fiji for their support and assistance which enables Oceania Rugby to use Rugby’s platform to raise awareness, build understanding, adjust negative social norms, and support innovative solutions to promote gender equality and rugby values including respect and solidarity.”
Mr. John O’Connor, CEO of the Fiji Rugby Union, said the FRU were “again delighted to be working with Oceania Rugby on the Oceania Rugby Sevens Championship” further adding,
“It is great news that New Zealand will now be part of the tournament. We will now have Fiji, Samoa, New Zealand and Australia in the men’s competition and likewise in the Women’s competition which will provide a great opportunity for rugby supporters in Fiji to watch these Teams at the ANZ Stadium.”
O’Connor further added, “I must acknowledge and thank the Fiji Government for its support towards Rugby in Fiji and we are so thankful that the Fiji Government has committed its support for the next three years. With FRU’s announcement that it will be bidding for a leg of the HSBC World Sevens from 2020, the Oceania Rugby Sevens Championship will give our country a great opportunity to build our hosting credentials over the next three years. And our players will relish the chance to compete against world class teams in front of a home crowd.”