LONDON (AP) Former rugby league and NFL player Jarryd Hayne has been drafted by a Fiji squad looking to confirm a second straight rugby sevens world series triumph at Twickenham this weekend.
Fiji confirmed Hayne on Friday for his rugby sevens international debut, as an injury replacement for Vatemo Ravouvou.
Hayne, an Australian, retired from the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, a year into a three-year contract, after saying Fiji Sevens approached him about taking a shot at the Olympics. He has a limited time to impress, as the London Sevens is the 10th and last leg of the world series.
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''My dad is Fijian and we watched a lot of (Waisale) Serevi games, and William Ryder was a big idol of mine,'' Hayne said in a statement released by World Rugby. ''I have always dreamt about playing sevens for Fiji and I've been given the opportunity.''
Fiji coach Ben Ryan said he always planned to change the team which reached the final in Paris last weekend, but he also sensed some complacency and felt it was necessary for ''a bit of added competition.''
''Jarryd is our latest, he has trained well, (it's a) massive learning curve for him, but he has settled in well and he is used to that Fijian side of things off the field,'' Ryan said in a statement.
''He brings a professionalism obviously, and we already have that. But he comes in from a different angle. He has a great background in rugby league and another professional sport at the highest level. In attack he is comfortable on the ball, he has good spatial awareness, and has good footwork. In defense he is a good tackler. It is the shape in defense, the breakdown skills, the finer arts and, of course, the engine. He is not going to have the same fitness as our boys have got but he's had a good week with us.''
Fiji has to reach only the quarterfinals of the London Sevens on Saturday to clinch the world series, and be confirmed as the gold medal favorites for rugby sevens in Rio de Janeiro.