Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Abu Dhabi-based Jeremy Manning to help Fiji rugby with their Olympic kick

Paul Radley reports on the former Abu Dhabi Harlequins head coach and his plans to go to Fiji to help their sevens team prepare for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Jeremy Manning shown in September 2012, when he was still a player for Abu Dhabi Harlequins. Christopher Pike / The National
Jeremy Manning shown in September 2012, when he was still a player for Abu Dhabi Harlequins. Christopher Pike / The National

ABU DHABI // UAE ambitions at this summer’s Rio Olympics may range from being medal hopefuls to just being there to take part. But one expatriate from the capital is helping mould a side who are red-hot gold-medal favourites.

Jeremy Manning, the Abu Dhabi-based personal trainer, will fly to Fiji on Friday night to rejoin the coaching staff of the back-to-back World Sevens Series champions.

The former Abu Dhabi Harlequins head coach was with them at a number of the 10 series tournaments this season as their specialist kicking coach.

Now he is heading to Uprising, the team’s training centre on the south coast of Fiji’s main island, to help hone their preparations for their medal bid at August’s Rio Games.

He will fly from the UAE via Auckland, and will be with the team until they depart late next month for a preparatory tournament in Chile.

He says he is unlikely to be part of their coaching staff at the Games, but acknowledges he would drop all his work commitments if the chance to be with them in Rio did come to pass.

“I am just super stoked to be involved with the Olympic set up,” Manning said.

“I have been very busy with work (in Abu Dhabi) and haven’t had time to think about the preparations going in to Rio, but once I get on the flight I’ll be very excited.

“To be a part of what Fiji have got going at the moment is fantastic. All the Fiji boys, and the Fijiana women’s side, are great people who have made my job so much easier. It is very rewarding.”

In recent years, Fiji have acclimatised ahead of the world series-opening Dubai Rugby Sevens by spending a week training in Abu Dhabi first.

They have formed a strong bond with the host club, Harlequins, and recruited Manning to help advise on drop-kick technique.

Ben Ryan, the English coach in charge of Fiji, was happy to bring the New Zealander​ into the fold as often as time would permit, especially after seeing the effects at The Sevens in December.

The Fijian kickers only missed two kicks at goal across the title-winning weekend, and were especially effective at kick-off returns.

“Of 16 tries we scored today, every single one of them was converted,” Ryan said back then, on the opening day of a tournament Fiji went on to win.

“Jeremy Manning deserves a pat on the back. We have been working hard on it back in Fiji, but he has been fine-tuning it here.”

After their success in Dubai, Fiji did not look back. Having only won the title once in the 15 years up until 2015, they have now wrapped up two in successive seasons in the lead in to the format’s debut in the Olympics.

“These players want to win every game they play – it doesn’t matter if it is in training or in the final of the Hong Kong Sevens,” Manning said of the Fijians.

“It doesn’t matter who they come up against, all they think about is winning. It means that in training, the intensity is so high.

“Guys at training want to win so they can get in the matchday squads and get the opportunity to win games for their country.”


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