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For­mer Voda­fone Fi­jian 7s rugby coach Ben Ryan is se­ri­ously work­ing be­hind the scene to make Fiji a world force in 15s. Ryan, who be­came a liv­ing le­gend in Fiji af­ter guid­ing our na­tional rugby sev­ens team to win a gold medal at the Rio Olympics in Au­gust, is work­ing on putting to­gether a rock-solid pro­posal to con­vince SANZAR and World Rugby to in­clude a Su­per Rugby team based in Fiji with acad­e­mies in Samoa and Tonga. Ryan was the chief guest dur­ing the Hong Kong Rugby Union Long Lunch last Fri­day and spoke to the South China Morn­ing Post Q&A. “One other thing I’m re­ally pas­sion­ate about is how we make sure that 15s doesn’t be­come an af­ter­thought in Fiji,” Ryan told SCMP. “The No.1 thing is to have a Su­per Rugby team on the is­land, with acad­e­mies in Samoa and Tonga. And po­ten­tially a longer term plan to have a sec­ond Pa­cific Is­land team, then a gen­er­a­tion of coaches, phys­io­ther­a­pists, man­agers, a sta­dium, tourism – that’s some­thing I’m re­ally ex­cited about try­ing to get a group of peo­ple to­gether. We can put such a strong ar­gu­ment to Su­per Rugby and World Rugby that they can’t say no. We have a lot of peo­ple that want to put a lot of money into a fran­chise. That’s in the very early stages but I’m try­ing to get a group to­gether to push that so that within five years it hap­pens. If I can get that as a legacy or help part of that, that would change Fi­jian rugby and get them back to con­sis­tently get­ting to quar­ter-fi­nals of World Cups and bring­ing the best tal­ent back to the is­land. “They’ve talked for 20 years about it, but no-one’s done any­thing. Be­cause no one’s come with a rock­solid pro­posal.”

7s and Olympics

Ryan was in­vited by the USA bas­ket­ball giants New York Knicks to speak in a con­fer­ence called Lead­ers in Sport. “The No.1 thing that sur­prised me was how many peo­ple watched the

I handed in my res­ig­na­tion about four months be­fore the Olympics be­cause I didn’t want any­one to read into what would hap­pen or not hap­pen at the Olympics into my de­ci­sion.

sev­ens and the im­pact it had on the global scale. The New York Knicks play­ers knew about Fiji sev­ens, they’d watched it in their locker room and were amazed with the ath­leti­cism of the Fi­jian boys and the sim­i­lar­i­ties of the of­fload­ing and pass­ing in bas­ket­ball.”

Job of­fers

“I handed in my res­ig­na­tion about four months be­fore the Olympics be­cause I didn’t want any­one to read into what would hap­pen or not hap­pen at the Olympics into

Ben Ryan

For­mer Na­tional 7s head coach my de­ci­sion. I was al­ways in for four years with Fiji and at the end of that I wanted to leave on a high, be the first Fiji coach not to get sacked and that’s what hap­pened. So peo­ple were aware of my avail­abil­ity and we had some good of­fers and I’ve got some good of­fers on the ta­ble at the mo­ment.”

South Africa Team to Beat

Hav­ing won the World Sev­ens Se­ries for the two years in a row, Fiji will de­fend the ti­tle start­ing with the Dubai 7s from De­cem­ber 2-3. But Ryan is bank­ing on South Africa to win the se­ries by a land­slide. “The door’s wide open for South Africa. They’re con­sis­tent, I think they’ll win the World Se­ries and might win it by a land­slide. They were un­lucky the last two years, kept con­sis­tency, lost a cou­ple of play­ers but have a very good frame­work, very good set-up and are prob­a­bly the most pro­fes­sional setup and the only ones of the top three with­out any real change. New Zealand will have new coach, some of their older play­ers re­tired. It’s go­ing to be a wide open se­ries in many ways but I can’t see any­body chal­leng­ing South Africa.”

For­mer Fi­jian na­tional 7s coach Ben Ryan in the locker room of the New York Knicks in New York City, USA ear­lier this month.

Prime Min­is­ter Voreqe Bain­i­marama with the vic­to­ri­ous Fi­jian na­tional 7s team and of­fi­cials at the Rio Olympics in Au­gust.

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