OTAGO University from New Zealand and Sunnybank (Queensland) will compete in the third edition of Fiji’s Coral Coast Sevens in November.
The two clubs, who boast an outstanding history in rugby sevens, are the first international clubs to confirm their place in the ‘champion of champions’ tournament at Lawaqa Park in Sigatoka. Additional teams from around the Pacific Rim are expected to be known soon.
“We are thrilled to be invited to compete in the Fiji Coral Coast Sevens this year and it will be a highlight of our season,” said Gaven Head, director of rugby at Sunnybank RFC. “We are the only Premier club in Australia with a comprehensive rugby sevens program and have had a lot of success in the game, although we know it will be a step up in Fiji.”
Last season the Dragons won the Fitness First Central Coast Sevens (beating the Australian national squad), finished runners-up at Byron Bay and made the top four in Noosa and the top eight in Singapore.
As well as the promising Matt Lucas (an Australian Sevens representative) the club has fielded international sevens players Shalom Suniula (USA), Harry Jones (Canada) and previously Ben Gollings (England) in their sevens side, while they have also developed a number of Wallabies, including winger Digby Ioane.
“Our teams will be a mix of experienced campaigners and young, exciting talent,” continued Head. “We have a number pushing for national selection and the chance to go on to higher honours and we also hope to include a marquee player or two out of the Australian squads.”
Sunnybank women’s captain Moana Virtue, who was part of the winning Queensland team in this year’s Australia National Women’s Sevens, will be a key part of the Dragons in the inaugural eight-team women’s event.
The Otago University Rugby Football Club, founded in 1884, is the most successful rugby club in New Zealand and possibly the world. Over the past 125 years, 65 University players have gone on to become All Blacks, 44 while still playing for the Club, while 12 Black Ferns have also come from University.
Fiji’s Coral Coast Sevens Chairman Jay Whyte said the inclusion of Sunnybank and Otago University fits perfectly with the long-term goals of the event.
“Having the very best sides from the Central Coast Sevens and the Middlesex Cup is the first step in our vision to link with like-minded tournaments and create a Pacific Rim ‘champion of champions’. This year’s tournament also features the best Fijian clubs, including defending champions Wardens.”