THE all-conquering Wardens rugby club has accepted an invitation to play in the Serevi Vancouver International Sevens next month.
The club, which won the Fiji Coral Coast Sevens in 2011, is expected to include current and former Fijian players when it lines up against 12 other international teams in Canada’s largest sevens tournament on July 21.
Coach Timoci Wainiqolo will call on Joji Ragamate, Ilia Tinai, Lepani Botia and Niko Verekauta, who were all part of Fiji’s winning team in London last month, as well as former national representative Api Naiyabo (captain).
“We are finalising visas and other matters before we release the team but it will be our strongest available line-up,” said Wainiqolo who took the team to a 26-19 win over Police in Sigatoka in November.
“We are excited at the prospect of meeting teams from all over the world and are grateful to the organisers for inviting us to represent Fiji.”
The Wardens’ appearance is the start of a relationship between the two fast-growing events.
Waisale Serevi, whose name anoints the tournament, said: “I am thrilled to welcome the Wardens, not only because they hail from my native Fiji, but also because their participation speaks to the growth of this tournament and the progress of rugby in North America.”
The Serevi Vancouver International Sevens, presented by WINGS pubs and restaurants, moves to the 5200-seat Swangard Stadium located at 3883 Imperial Street, Burnaby, just outside Vancouver.
Chairman Netani Gucake says Rugby Sevens has seen a significant increase in interest in Canada since it was added to the program for the 2016 Olympics in Rio and the presence of the Wardens will help to raise the tournament’s profile even further.
“We are growing the tournament to include some other teams we haven’t been able to get in previous years, and a champion team from Fiji is a big boost for us,” Gucake said.
“The bigger goal is to have Vancouver as one of the key sanctioned events with the IRB — we all have dreams and we hope one day we will be able to attract 80,000 people as that’s the number Hong Kong attracts every year.”
With a month to go before the Serevi Vancouver International Sevens the excitement is building in British Columbia, on Canada’s west coast.
England’s Ben Gollings, the record IRB top point scorer, has confirmed he will be a guest player with Serevi’s Seattle-based team while further teams will be announced soon.
Besides the international teams, the Vancouver tournament features elite men’s and women’s teams made up from local clubs, plus a youth division.
Fiji’s Coral Coast Sevens chairman Jay Whyte said he was delighted with the news.
“As our champions Wardens were the star performers of last year so we are thrilled that they will be competing in Vancouver and we thank (Lieutenant Colonel) Ifereimi Vasu, Commissioner for Corrections, for releasing the players,” he said.
“We at the Coral Coast Sevens are confident that they will be put on a great performance and illustrate to all why Fiji is truly the home of sevens rugby.
“This initiative is also part of our long-term strategy to partner with like-minded organisers such as Netani and his team, and we are also excited to be working again with Waisale Serevi, who was one of our ambassadors at last year’s tournament.”
Wardens will also attend the Fitness First Central Coast Sevens in Australia in October as a result of winning Fiji’s Coral Coast Sevens.
“When the Wardens won our tournament in November 2011 they were issued with a written letter of invitation from the Central Coast Sevens assisting with all aspects of their trip to Australia, and we are very grateful to Craig Morgan, Tournament Director, for his support.”
Whyte said planning for the third Fiji Coral Coast Sevens was on target, with a number of teams, sponsors and media partners confirmed, and more announcements would be made in the coming weeks.
The tournament is scheduled for November 15-17 at Lawaqa