March 27 - Fiji coach Ben Ryan has claimed qualifying for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games is more important than a place at Glasgow 2014 after his side were denied a place at the Commonwealth Games.
Speaking ahead of this weekend's Hong Kong Sevens, Ryan claimed the Glasgow 2014 snub would only serve to motivate his players to secure a third consecutive title at the event and galvanise their ambitions of securing a place at the Olympic Games, where rugby sevens will be making its debut.
Following Fiji's reinstatement into the Commonwealth, the Fiji Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee (FASANOC) had asked the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) to allow its rugby sevens and netball sides to compete in Glasgow despite the qualification period being over and teams already decided.
The CGF refused to bow to the demands, leading FASANOC to threaten to boycott the Games, a threat dropped yesterday following an emergency meeting in Suva.
The Pacific Islanders' rugby sevens side won Commonwealth silver in 1998 and 2002, along with a bronze at Melbourne 2006, and would have been one of the strongest sides at this year's Games.
Ryan insisted, though, he and his squad have accepted the decision and will use it as motivation.
"The boys never thought they'd be going to Glasgow and have not competed in the event since 2006," Ryan, who took charge of Fiji last September after six years as head coach of England, told the South China Morning Post.
"If we'd always thought we'd be competing, and then it was taken away, it'd be very different.
"But that is not the case.
"There's no doubt we'd have a very realistic gold medal chance in Glasgow, but not playing isn't that big a disappointment.
"It gives us added motivation to do well in Hong Kong.
"What's more important is getting Olympic qualification so it gives us a chance to have a good preseason instead."
Legendary Fijian player Waisale Serevi, part of the current coaching set-up, backed up Ryan's assertion that the ultimate goal for the squad now is Rio 2016.
"I think everybody in Fiji would forgive me if we lost every game over the next two years, including the Commonwealth Games, but won an Olympic gold medal in Rio," Serevi said.
"I've been employed to get the Fiji team on the top podium in the Olympics.
"That's the main goal."
The immediate priority for Fiji is the Hong Kong Sevens this weekend and Ryan's side go into the seventh round of the Sevens World Series in good form after victory in Tokyo last weekend.
A 33-26 win over series leaders South Africa consolidated Fiji's third place on the overall standings in the HSBC World Sevens Series behind defending champions New Zealand.
Fiji have been drawn in Pool A against Wales, Kenya and Sri Lanka, while the South Africans are up against Australia, France and Spain in Pool B.
England, who sit 10 points behind Fiji in the current standings will take on Pool C opponents Canada, Argentina and Portugal while Pool D contains the All Blacks, Scotland, Samoa and the United States.
The Hong Kong Sevens is due to underway tomorrow (Friday) and conclude on Sunday (March 30).
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