Editorial comment – Setting our base right

National Fiji Airways 7's team bonding during the training at Albert Park. Picture: RAMA/FILE

THE revelation that some of national sevens players have turned down offers because they want to be part of our defence of the Olympic Games title is interesting.

It says a lot for the value now placed on what is arguably the premier sporting event on the planet.

The 2016 Olympic Games catapulted sevens rugby to the world.

It raised the profile of the game, and lifted the national side onto the pedestal reserved for global champions.

Gold medal winning coach Ben Ryan became an instantly recognised coach, and our sevens team members became superstars in their own right.

As much as we may want to deflect attention from our campaign in the lead up to the Japan Olympic Games next year, we are under pressure.

The attention of the rugby world is firmly on how we are preparing for the defence of that title.

That win in Rio in 2016 was worth more than any budget we could have put together to market our country abroad.

The World Rugby 7s series post-Olympic Games 2016 saw a massive rise in fans in Dubai, Cape Town, Sydney, Vancouver, Las Vegas, Hong Kong and London.

The total attendance, according to World Rugby, over 10 rounds, increased by almost 10 per cent, to 734,000 fans.

The total social media community, it stated, reached 120 million across multiple languages as the series broadcast to global TV audience in over 100 countries.

World Rugby stated the figures reflected the increased popularity of a sport that saw its fan base increase by almost 17 million people in six key territories and as much as an estimated 30 million worldwide, following its debut in the Rio Olympics.

The statistics are staggering.

When we consider the fact that we were on centre-stage then, and attracted a global audience that was massive, we should expect questions.

As we look ahead to Tokyo 2020, there will be some questions on whether we effectively embraced the 2016 historic gold medal win, and whether the Fiji Rugby Union maximised on our achievement.

Reflecting on that achievement, did we do enough to raise the profile of our game and maximize on our status as gold medal winners to promote our game, and leverage off it in terms of financial backing?

The fact that players are focusing on this major event will no doubt be seen as a reflection of the value placed on the Olympics.

It effectively raises the bar for aspiring players.

Hopefully that will translate to a strong national squad.

The challenge though for national coach Gareth Baber is to set the base for our campaign.

This is why the front runners around the world will be focused on us.

We received the highest number of yellow cards at the Dubai 7s last week, copping six in four matches.

We weren’t able to get into the cup quarter-finals in Dubai. But there is hope.

We have a team that can turn heads.

The key though is how well and fast we can settle down, and find our rhythm.

Cape Town is the focus right now.

That’s where we have another opportunity to work on our base.

Go Fiji, go.

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