Of all the names involved in Rugby Sevens, and in the Sevens World Cup, one still captures the imagination of fans around the world more than any other.
Over the course of two decades, the name of Waisale Serevi became synonymous with the Rugby World Cup Sevens, which this year marks its 20th anniversary when Moscow hosts the sixth edition two decades after Edinburgh hosted the first.
In the build-up to the eagerly-awaited pool allocation draw for the Moscow tournament, Serevi has spoken passionately about the event and its effects on his career.
“When you start out as a young rugby player you go to lots of places and play in all sorts of tournaments, but it’s everyone’s dream to play in a Rugby World Cup,” said Serevi.
“I’ve been lucky enough in my career to go to seven World Cups – three in 15s and four in Sevens – and it’s something very special to me.”
Serevi’s first taste of the Rugby World Cup movement came in the 15-a-side game in 1991, in a 13-3 loss to Canada in Bayonne. That day he played in the same side as the current Fiji Sevens coach, Alifereti Dere, and opposite Canada’s great fly half, Gareth Rees.
He went on to play at both the 1999 and 2003 Rugby World Cups, but it was on the Rugby World Cup Sevens stage where Serevi became a god among mortals.
Twice, in 1997 and 2005, he inspired the Fijians to victory in Hong Kong, proudly lifting the Melrose Cup on both occasions to spark mass adulation and prompt a national holiday.
“In Fiji if we win the Rugby World Cup Sevens, it’s a very big thing for everyone. Fiji is a small country and winning a World Cup is a huge honour and a privilege.”
Fiji will be drawn from the top band of six for the pool draw in Moscow on 28 February, four months out from the tournament on 28-30 June. However, as Serevi himself acknowledges, nothing is certain in the modern game of Rugby Sevens.
“It will be tough as we’ve seen in the Series. There is a lot of talent in Fiji and it will depend on them picking the right players, but there are no longer ‘big teams’ and ‘small teams’ in Sevens, the margin is closing between all the teams.
“It’s no longer about history, it’s no longer about what you did last year or last week. It is about how you perform in those seven minutes. That is the beauty of Sevens.”