The return of magical Fiji
Story: www.irbsevens.com \ Nigel Starmers
In his latest column for irbsevens.com, TV commentator Nigel Starmer-Smith reflects on the first round of the HSBC Sevens World Series.
What a fascinating way to start the new Series.
The Gold Coast Sevens is a new event and once word gets round about this weekend’s incredible tournament it will be a very popular venue for years to come, in a superb stadium.
And I think it was a fascinating and exciting start to the season because you saw new emerging players, new talent, and of course the return of magical Fiji which capped the whole event in a wonderful final.
It was their new style. They made a commitment about not wanting to go into contact and wanting to go back to the style of Fiji which is about continuous attack, running from everywhere, and that is exactly what they did.
All of their big men stood up, against a team who looked a little passive. In a way I believe Fiji have moved on and shown how you can overcome the power and the ball winning skills that New Zealand have with the likes of Solomon King, Frank Halai, DJ Forbes and Tim Mikkelson, and their own magic in Tomasi Cama.
I thought though that Fiji brought an edge, one that got the crowd on their feet. To see the outrageous flamboyant style of some of the Fijian play was exciting because it has been a while since Fiji have won a Cup final.
It is amazing to think it has been nine years since Fiji have beaten New Zealand in a Cup final. In one of their many Cup finals they haven’t done so since 2002. But here they were back on top of the world and it has set up the season so perfectly really.
New Zealand are always going to be good and will be there at the end, but here we have a Series now that says look how many teams are so close.
Arrival of new talent
So many youngsters to watch our for too and that is another element that made me so happy about this tournament, the arrival of all this new talent. Looking at New Zealand and all these teenagers in Joe Webber, Charles Piutau and Glen Robertson.
And Wales on the back of a great Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, they also had some great youngsters, who will be big names in their time, like Harry Robertson and Owen B Williams.
Not forgetting the young Australians; Lewis Holland, Pama Fou and Lindsay Crook, and USA's Folau Niua who all have a lot of promise.
By contrast you then had this fairy tale, at the other end of the spectrum, 39-year-old Senivalati Vunibola, who came on in the final, having done his bit throughout the tournament.
There he was doing what he has probably done for 25-years, ripping the ball of Toby Arnold, at such a crucial stage in the final, flipping it out having grabbed it from New Zealand, and produced the try which was the turning point in the final.
So it has been a tremendous start at a great venue, with a new breed of Fiji and an extra sort of element to the game of Sevens that moves on in a very visually exciting style for spectators.
We now move ahead to Dubai, and it is going to be a testing three weeks, with several sides suffering from one or two niggling injuries and therefore player resources will be tested to the full.
Conditions in Dubai are never easy either. I think the openness of the top eight is going to continue and what I was looking through was how close the results were all the way through. It is closing in so much between the top abilities and the lesser teams overall, and there are no chasms anymore between those at the top and those below them anymore which we will see once more this weekend at 7he Sevens.