Rugby: Ryan ready to lead Fiji to sevens heaven in Rio

Sat Jul 23, 2016 9:11pm EDT
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By Greg Stutchbury

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Rugby sevens coach Ben Ryan is mobbed every time he ventures into Suva these days as locals impress upon him how much a first Olympic medal would mean to Fiji.

The bookmakers' favorites to win the first Olympic rugby union gold medal in 92 years, albeit in the sport's shorter format, Fiji have wedded a new-found consistency to their traditionally strong skillset under Ryan's guidance.

The 44-year-old, who can no longer just go into the capital for a "quiet cup of coffee", is well aware of the expectation piled on him and the side as the countdown continues to the Aug. 5-21 Rio de Janeiro Games.

"In Fiji there is pressure to win every game. There are questions if we don't," he told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"It doesn't matter if we don't have any money or our best players are injured. They expect us to go onto the field and beat New Zealand South Africa and Australia."

Fiji has produced some of the greatest players ever to have played the shortened version of the game, such as Waisale Serevi and William Ryder, and their success has allowed the country to wave its flag on the global sporting stage.

Since the introduction of the world sevens series in 1999, however, the team have been struggled with consistency, romping through one tournament only to crash out early in the next.

Ryan was brought in to rectify that.   Continued...