'Semi definitely has an intention and a desire to play in the Olympics'

Fiji sevens coach Gareth Baber is planning to combine the mercurial talents of Semi Radradra and Jerry Tuwai in a bid to give the Pacific Islands nation a second successive Olympic Games gold medal in Tokyo later this year.

Fijian-based Tuwai was recently named the best 7s player of the decade at the World Rugby awards while Radradra’s 2020 move to Bristol in the Gallagher Premiership cemented his position as arguably the best rugby player in any version of the sport.

Baber has the unenviable job of replicating the 2016 gold medal triumph fashioned by Ben Ryan in Rio, and his preparations have been severely affected by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic which saw the originally scheduled 2020 Games postponed for a year. 

The continuing impact of the virus means it looks certain all of the leading sevens teams will arrive at the Games not having taken part in any HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series events.

Fiji are hoping to set up bubbles with Australia, New Zealand and Samoa to provide match and training practice before they depart for Tokyo – Australia have successfully staged international rugby and cricket in their country. There are also plans to bring those countries to Fiji – quarantine restrictions permitting – for further match practice.

Baber left London on Tuesday on a 45-hour long journey back to Fiji where he will have to quarantine for two weeks. He told RugbyPass that Radradra wants the chance to win a gold medal in Tokyo where his big-match experience alongside Tuwai, a member of the 2016 Fiji winning team, could be vital in dealing with the pressure of repeating the triumph of five years ago.

Baber will speak to Pat Lam, the Bristol director of rugby, about the inclusion of Radradra in the Fiji sevens squad prior to the Games being staged from July 23 to August 8. He said: “Semi definitely has an intention and a desire to play in the Olympics and there will be conversations with Semi and Pat. 

“The release of a player of that ilk is a big ask, and there are also players in the Top 14 like Vilimoni Botitu and Aminiasi Tuimaba at Castres and Pau respectively. They are high on my list having just dropped out of sevens to 15s.

“Jerry will do the Olympics. He feels a responsibility and wants to push himself to win a second gold medal. That is his vision. We are working and developing players in Fiji and the issue the new guys have is that they have not played any international rugby sevens while players in Europe have that experience of walking into the cauldron of an Olympics. 

“I have been in contact with Semi Kunatani and he had issues with Castres having been dropped for medical reasons. I have spoken to him about if things don’t work out in France then we would look at him being part of the training group. He is a great player.