Team Fiji Touch Rugby Manager Olita Antonia is pleased with the interest shown from athletes overseas who would like to be a part of Team Fiji to both the World Cup in April and the 2019 Pacific Games in July.
Olita said they have three overseas based players, who are vying for a spot in Team Fiji from Australia, New Zealand and England.
"Both the Australia & New Zealand based players are vying for a spot in the Men’s Open team and our player based in England is vying for a spot in the Women’s Open team.
"All players actively participate in touch rugby tournaments in their respective countries," she said.
Olita said the overseas based players represent their clubs and state teams during summer & winter tournaments throughout the year.
"Our Australia based player also represented the Queensland State team during the State of Origin Touch Rugby Series that was held in November 2018."
She said they were fortunate to have these players put their hand up for Team Fiji and were willing to give back and assist in whatever way they can to help grow the sport in Fiji.
Meanwhile Team Fiji Touch Rugby is adamant that their preparations are going well.
Olita said Team Fiji Touch Rugby held two Talent Identification Programmes in Suva and Nadi in June, last year and anyone interested in the sport had been invited to attend these programmes.
"The Talent Identification Programmes were used as an avenue for players and gave them an opportunity to showcase their knowledge and skills.
"Old and new players identified during the Talent Identification Programmes were then invited to attend the National Trials that was held at Suva’s Albert Park on 7th July 2018," she said.
Olita said Team Fiji Touch Rugby held the national trial to identify and gauge the players skill level & knowledge of the game.
She said an extended training squads was then announced after the completion of the National Trials and mandatory training attendance and regular fitness tests were used as a tool to trim the squads from 65 players to the 47 to date.
"In addition to the Trials, teams have been training extensively and have had regular fitness tests to condition them for the 2 major tournaments," she said.
Olita said there was also an International Club tournament that was held from 9th-10th November 2018, and co-hosted by Touch Rugby Fiji and Tourism Fiji.
"The tournament featured club teams from New Zealand, Australia and 2 teams each from Suva and Nadi, who played in 3 categories – Mixed Open (MXO), Men’s Open (MO) and Women’s Open (WO).
"Most local players that featured during the Fijian Cup are also part of the Fiji Extended Training squads," Olita said.
"The Fijian Cup together with various local tournaments also gave players much needed game time."
Olita said with the guidance of experienced coaches in Tomasi Tiko (Women’s Open Head Coach), Jack Sade (Men’s Open Head Coach) & Fesaitu Mario (Strength & Conditioning Coach), local athletes were also fighting hard for spots in their World Cup and Pacific Games teams.
"At the moment, squads have yet to be finalized, Touch Rugby World Cup squad will be finalized and announced by 31st March 2019 and Pacific Games squad by 24th April 2019," she said.
Olita said local athletes train on a daily basis from Monday-Thursday & Saturday with strength & conditioning every 2 days a week and skills training 3 days a week.
Meanwhile, Team Fiji Touch Rugby management held a fitness test on Saturday 12th January for the Open Grades (Squads) at Marist Brothers High School’s Lambert Hall and tracks.
"The Fitness Test was used as a tool to gauge players fitness level and also trim the training squads numbers.
"There’s also a one-day club tournament on Saturday 26th January, 2019 at USP Grounds, which will feature touch rugby clubs from Suva and Nadi and also give players much-needed game time," Olita said.
Team Fiji Touch Rugby are hoping to take the maximum number of players allowed which is 28 Players (14 each for Men’s Open & Women’s Open) and 3 Officials (MO Coach, WO Coach + Section Manager).
"Our target is to come out winners in the three categories we will be competing in."
Olita said Team Fiji Touch Rugby will not be holding another trial but will use current squad numbers and preparations to finalize our squads for both the Touch Rugby World Cup and Pacific Games.
Olita said one of the main constraints that hindered their preparations was the lack of financial assistance.
"Touch Rugby has had difficulty trying to secure sponsorship for any of the tournaments that we compete in," she said.
"As such, players have had to foot their own costs including preparation & training, and playing uniforms."
Olita said the lack of proper grounds and facilities to train on was also another hindrance to their preparations not only for the 2019 Pacific Games but also the upcoming World Cup in April.
Apart from the 2019 Pacific Games, Touch Federation Fiji (TFF) & its fraternity are also preparing for the Touch Rugby World Cup that will be held in Putrajaya, Malaysia from 28th April – 5th May 2019.