RECALLED TO 7s...
Gareth Baber’s phone call was a blessing, says promising winger
Rising winger Jiuta Wainiqolo has set his sights on playing in next year’s Olympic Games and the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
The 21-year-old was one of the three players that were invited by Fiji Airways Fijian 7s coach Gareth Baber to join the extended training squad to prepare for the remaining tournaments of the HSBC World Sevens Series and the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, next July. Speaking to SUNsports yesterday Wainiqolo said, he saw the opportunity as a blessing after he was dropped from the squad last year. “Everyone that played sevens switched to fifteens rugby because of overseas contracts,” he said.
“If I make it to the sevens team and get an opportunity to play at the Olympics I’ll take it and then I’ll switch to fifteens where I’ll focus on the 2023 Rugby World Cup. “Baber has given me this opportunity. I’ll take it because I grew up around sevens rugby and watched my idols like Waisale Serevi, Vilimoni Delasau and the winning Olympic gold medal team in Rio 2016.
“For me personally when I was dropped from the squad last year, I thought that was the end of the road for me.
“I started focusing on fifteens rugby. When I received the call from Baber I couldn’t believe it and I was so happy.”
Wainiqolo said it was every young boy’s dream to play for the Fijian 7s team.
“I’m no different to any of them. To be given the opportunity to don the national sevens colour I will take it with both hands and play with honour and pride for God, country, village, family and friends.
“I will give my all during training and will always ensure that I’m focused, committed and always ready to test myself every time I train with the squad so I can play in one of the tournaments coming up.” Wainiqolo said he was very much eager to learn from the coaches and senior players.
“All the knowledge and experience that I have in rugby counts so I will take it with me to camp.
“At the same time I’ve to learn new things from the experienced guys in the team. It is always important to respect and adapt into a new environment,” he said.
Wainiqolo added that during the lockdown his body conditioning had improved.
“My body and niggling injuries have recovered so I just can’t wait to get back to training,” he said. Wainiqolo said he needed to work hard on his fitness especially when playing at international sevens tournament.
“Playing sevens rugby won’t be hard for me because I have always played it before. The only thing that will be a challenge is the fitness aspect of it.
“In sevens rugby we got to be fit because we have to cover a lot of ground. There’s seven people playing as in fifteens rugby you can always relax during the game.
“I’ll have to work hard on my reflexes and trying to add some power to my game for physical confrontations.”
Rookie winger Jiuta Wainiqolo works on his farm in Navua on May 11, 2020. The 21-year-old was again invited by Fiji Airways Fijian 7s head coach Gareth Baber to join the extended training squad and the youngster has agreed, setting his sights on next year’s Olympic Games.
Jiuta Wainiqolo works on his farm in Navua on May 11, 2020. Wainiqolo made his debut for the Fiji Airways Flying Fijians against the Barbarians last November. He is now recalled into the Fijian 7s extended training squad for the World Sevens Series and next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.