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National 7’s teams miss out on Commonwealth Games

Thursday 10 March 2022 | Written by Rashneel Kumar | Published in

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National 7’s teams miss out  on Commonwealth Games
The Cook Islands Sevens team in Hong Kong in 2019, one of the last international events the side competed in before the Covid-19 pandemic. PHOTO: SUPPLIED/19040110

Cook Islands men’s and women’s Sevens rugby teams have missed out on a chance to qualify for the 2022 Commonwealth Games after Oceania Rugby cancelled a qualification tournament being planned for April.

The regional body cancelled the qualifiers due to ongoing logistical challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic and qualification deadlines, a statement said.

A number of options were explored for this proposed standalone qualification tournament following the cancellation of the 2021 Oceania Rugby Men’s and Women’s Sevens Championship however given the ongoing border closures throughout the Pacific it became impossible to operate the event, Oceania Rugby said.

A decision was then made to use the rankings from the 2020/21 HSBC Men’s and Women’s Sevens Series and 2019 Oceania Rugby Men’s and Women’s Sevens Championship to determine qualification for 2022 Commonwealth Games and Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022.

The decision will see Tonga join Australia, Samoa, Fiji and New Zealand in the men’s event and Fiji join Australia and New Zealand in the women’s event at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, on 29-31 July.

The Australia, Samoa and Tonga Men’s Sevens will join New Zealand and Fiji in the Men’s event and Fiji join Australia and New Zealand in the Women’s event at the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022 in Cape Town, South Africa, on 9-11 September.

“The disappointing but understandable decision was made following extensive discussions between Oceania Rugby, member unions and World Rugby.”

Ben Koteka, Cook Islands Rugby Union’s development manager, while accepting the decision said: “Thank you to the appointed Cook Islands men’s (Warwick Lahmert and Kevin Iro) and women’s (Tutu Tairea and Jules Westrupp) 7s coaches and their management teams including local strength and conditioning coaches Andrew Iroa and Wallace Aroita] who in difficult circumstances tried their best to prepare our teams in anticipation of the qualifiers that did not happen. CIRU are incredibly grateful for your support during these challenging times.”

“Congratulations to all our Oceania brothers and sisters who did qualify – we wish you all the very best of luck and we will be cheering for all of you on game day.”

Oceania Rugby president, Richard Sapias, said finding a way for the qualifier to go ahead has been a priority for Oceania Rugby in 2022.

“Unfortunately rescheduling or postponing the planned qualification event would also not be realistic under the current circumstances. Qualification deadlines for the upcoming Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, South Africa 2022 Rugby World Cup Sevens and ongoing travel restrictions within the Oceania region have prevented Oceania Rugby being able to host the event,” Sapias said.

“As an organisation we will continue to look for ways to provide pathways to and preparation for major events however in this situation we have simply run out of time.”

Fijiana 7s coach, Saiasi Fuli, is looking to add further medals to the bronze the team picked up in Tokyo Olympics last year.

“It is a big honour for our team to represent Fiji and the region at the commonwealth games, we have been preparing for some time in anticipation of this announcement. It will be a massive challenge for us to repeat our successes from Tokyo, but we know nothing is impossible and we can overcome anything if we prepare well mentally, physically, and spiritually.” Fuli said.

“The team have set ourselves a goal to medal in Birmingham and we are looking forward to celebrating with our fans again”, added Fuli.

Tonga Rugby Union chief executive Peter Harding, said Tonga is looking forward to competing against the world’s best in Sevens Rugby this year.

“We value the work that has been done by Oceania Rugby to bring the Oceania qualifications to life, but as we in Tonga know well, the challenges of the Pandemic have made travel and movement close to impossible in the Pacific. We understand that being handed qualification for the Commonwealth Games and Rugby World Cup is a great honour for our team and union, and we do not underestimate the challenge ahead,” Harding said.