MELBOURNE, June 28 (Reuters) - Fiji will head into their Olympic men’s rugby sevens title defence with confidence after emerging unbeaten from a key Tokyo Games warmup in Australia.
Despite not playing for almost 15 months, the Fijians humbled World Rugby Sevens champions New Zealand and medal contenders Australia at the Oceania sevens tournament in Townsville, which finished on Sunday.
Fiji won their two games against Australia convincingly and edged their first match against New Zealand 21-19.
They finished off on Sunday with a dominant 17-7 win in their second match against the All Blacks Sevens, who came to Townsville better prepared after playing Australia in a tournament in Auckland last month.
The Fijian men captured the Pacific island nation its first ever Olympic gold at Rio five years ago where rugby sevens made its Games debut, triggering public holidays and huge celebrations at home.
Fiji will be further bolstered by the addition of dynamo Semi Radradra, who will join the squad in Tokyo after his release from English side Bristol Bears.
It was also a good tournament for New Zealand’s powerful women’s side, who went unbeaten against Olympic champions Australia and Fiji.
After beating Fiji 27-12, the New Zealand ‘Black Ferns’ finished off on Sunday by thrashing Australia 26-5.
Australia were also upset by Fiji’s women on Saturday and have plenty to ponder ahead of their Olympic title defence.
Australia women’s head coach John Manenti put a positive spin on the reality check.
“I thought we stepped up across the park with our whole performance,” he said.
“We asked a few questions to them (New Zealand) and probably should have asked a couple more.
“But ultimately, I thought we were much better tonight than we have been against New Zealand for a little while.”
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford