The short answer is YES! Of course they should have.
The next question is Why did they not?
And that answer is a little more involved but comes down to 2 things.
1. The overwhelming preference of 15-a-side rugby over 7s; and
2. The political weight of Fiji and other pacific nations within World Rugby
Ben Ryan was nominated for Coach of the Year for leading Fiji to their second consecutive World Sevens Series crown and Olympic Gold.
Fiji were nominated for Team of the Year for the same reasons.
Osea Kolinisau was nominated for male Sevens Player of the Year for leading Fiji on the field to heights not even they had achieved before despite their immense talent.
They could easily have won all of these awards – but they didn’t get any.
FACT: 7s rugby is still the poor cousin of 15-a-side rugby – even in Olympic year
The Olympic Games were the ultimate example of this when none of the world’s top 15s players turned out for their countries in Rio.
Despite earlier commitments, Southern Hemisphere nations gave a ridiculously short amount of time for players to get up to speed with 7s before the event. And then appeared to even discourage their participation when it came down to it.
And the Home Nations didn’t even bother with the rhetoric – it seemed out of the question right from the off that we would see Christian Wade or George North suit up for Team GB.
But you would have thought that Fiji might have gotten 1 out of the 3 awards they were nominated for.
It’s not like they were long shots in any of these categories.
Before Ryan Fiji had NEVER achieved that level of consistency – not even under the great Waisale Serevi. He could only manage one World Series victory in charge. And they never won at the Commonwealth Games.
Outside of Hong Kong, you never quite knew what you were going to get from Fiji.
Ryan and Kilinisau were instrumental in bringing a professional approach to the relaxed island nation that despite its immense talent couldn’t get it together on a consistent basis.
These decisions are also going to re-ignite the debate about the level of influence of Pacific (and other smaller) nations in World Rugby
Do Fiji not deserve their day in the sun?