By Joel Fitzpatrick, Port Moresby 2015 Games News Service
PORT MORESBY, July 8 – With the core of Fiji’s world No. 1 men’s rugby 7s team coming to Papua New Guinea for the Port Moresby 2015 Pacific Games tournament, expectations will be high that they will run through the competition and take the gold.
But as the region found out at the 2011 Pacific Games in New Caledonia, Fiji’s men are beatable and there will be some tough challengers taking to the pitch at Port Moresby’s BSP Stadium.
Fiji have been grouped with PNG, Solomon Islands, Tahiti and Guam in pool A, with defending 2011 gold medallists Samoa being joined by Tonga, New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Nauru in group B.
As the first team to qualify for he inaugural Olympic rugby 7s tournament, Fiji is the clear favourite, but world No. 10 Samoa and world No.19 PNG will not be easy beats.
In 2011 Fiji had been peerless in their run to the final, not giving up a point in three pool games and then beating American Samoa and PNG in the quarterfinals and semifinals.
In the bronze medal game PNG beat Niue.
The women’s tournament at Port Moresby 2015 will be just as exciting.
Played as a round-robin, rather than the two pool system that the men will use, all women’s teams – from Australia, Fiji, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tahiti and Tonga – will face each other once before the playoff round.
Australia’s entry into the tournament has upped the star-power as they currently sit No. 3 in the world, and like Fiji’s men, have qualified for Rio 2016.
Ranked eight in the world, Fiji will put up a stiff challenge to the new arrivals and they will hope to defend their 2011 Pacific Games title.
At the 2011 Games in New Caledonia Fiji won gold, with Samoa and PNG taking silver and bronze respectively.
Fiji went unbeaten in the tournament, winning seven games on the way to glory.
Teams are awarded three points for a win, two for a draw and one for a loss in the round-robin pool stage which is played over the two first days of the tournament.
The points system determines the top four teams from each pool in the men’s and the overall standings in the women’s before teams progress to the quarterfinals, semifinals and then a bronze medal and gold medal game on the final day.
Competition begins on Wednesday with bronze and gold medal games for both genders starting at 18:30 on Friday.
GNS jf/jl for more information visit www.portmoresby2015.com