Tuvalu looks to build experience at the Oceania tourney

Tuvalu 7's coach Elenoa Kunatuba officiates against Marist Old Boys during a friendly at Sacred Heart College yesterday. Picture: RAMA

FROM training on an airstrip at home to playing at the ANZ Stadium in Suva, Fiji, the Tuvalu 7s team will be looking to build its experience at the 2018 Oceania Rugby 7s Championship next week.

Former Fijiana 7s coach Elenoa Kunatuba cum Tuvalu men’s 7s coach said despite having minimal time and resources to prepare her side, she was optimistic of a good outing during the tournament.

“Our preparations have been in line with the 15s program in Tuvalu, and by the time we had our squad together, there was about a week left before we had to fly over.”

Kunatuba of Semo, Nadroga, could be the first woman and first Fijian woman to coach a men’s team in the annual Oceania 7s tournament.

She said rugby had only been introduced in Tuvalu.

Football and volleyball are the major sports. Tuvalu, an independent island nation has a population of about 12,000 people. It is made up of nine small islands, thinly populated atolls and reef islands with palm-fringed beaches. Funafuti is its capital.

“We started training on an airstrip and when the national side was finally formed, we then trained at the Tuvalu Sports Ground based in Funafuti,” she said.

“But we had to share that ground with other sports, so it was a bit tough, but we managed.”

For pool sessions, Kunatuba said they used the sea by jumping off the Tuvalu Wharf and swam about 100 metres. She said despite the setbacks, morale was high in the squad and the players were eager to play in Suva.

“We have a talented squad and despite challenges faced along the way, they are eager to play.

“We look to the upcoming tournament as a great benchmark to gauge our players as well as for them to gain experience from.”

Tuvalu is placed in a strong pool with Samoa, Tonga and Niue.

The Tuvalu 7s team will play a warm-up match against the West Coast Drifters Club today at 4pm at Sacred Heart College ground at Nasese, formerly Cathedral Secondary School

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