Hayne brings variety, versatility to our national 7s squad
Ben Ryan is not taking any chances. The Vodafone Fijian 7s coach is building his squad for the Rio Olympics in August. It is evident he is looking for marquee players who have proved themselves on the world stage in sports. The surprise inclusion of rugby league and American grid iron star Jarryd Hayne in the Fijian squad for the London leg of the World Rugby Sevens series is part of this strategy.
He brings to the squad a variety of talents that can only enhance the team strength and preparation for Rio. When he switched from rugby league to grid iron, he became an instant sensation. Players of his calibre will create impact wherever they go. But there is no guarantee he will make it to the final squad. It gives Ryan a peace of mind that he is surrounded by these world class athletes. Anything can happen in two months, injuries and other unforeseen circumstances. It’s good to know that there are enough good players to slot in in case of an emergency. This is Ryan thinking strategically because the Rio gold is his ultimate goal. It’s a goal that the whole of Fiji is supporting him for. Success will give him the satisfaction of ending his sevens stint in Fiji on a high note.
It is not clear whether he will seek a renewal of his contract after Rio. There has been talk of him venturing into 15s and the possibility of teaming up with John McKee, the national 15s head coach.
If he stays in 7s it will be a plus for Fiji. But for the time being the focus is on London this weekend. We are on track to win the series back to back for the first time. We only have to reach the quarters to win. Anything beyond that is a bonus. But knowing Ryan’s high standards he will want to see his men go all the way to the final and win it. It will be a statement that we will be the team to beat in Rio. For Hayne he has to prove himself if he is given an opportunity. There is a remote chance we might see him in action this weekend. Ryan has developed this culture that his run-on players will be selected on merit, not on reputation or status. If Hayne is in the team, it is for a very specific purpose – to try him out. Let’s welcome him because he can be an inspiration to the side.
We still have to do a fair amount of work to gel them as a team, you just can’t hope that you pick the best players from around the globe and they will knit together. Ben Ryan Vodafone Fijian 7s coach