Fijian rugby players put through their paces on dramatic dune landscape

Story highlights

  • CNN World Rugby visits Fiji
  • Training involves running up sand dunes
  • Session ends with huddle and a hymn

(CNN)It's a training session like no other -- a thigh-burning run up near-vertical sand dunes, set against a stunning backdrop of sun, sea and Fijian pasture.

Nadroga rugby club boasts some of the best players Fiji has to offer, and the Sigatoka sand dunes are the team's secret weapon.
The only dunes in Fiji, it's a place where some of stars of the sport have been made, including future professionals and Olympic champions.
    But these dunes are about more than sharpening legs and lungs.
    "Once you accept discipline to be part of your life, you'll go a long way," Nadroga coach Timoci Kunavore, whose team regularly partakes in sessions on the dunes, tells CNN World Rugby.
    "What we're trying to do is to pull out indiscipline from every player and instil discipline into their life."
    Sessions on the sand dunes end with a huddle and hymn as the players thank God for helping them to overcome.
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    'Remarkable athletes'

    It's sessions like these that help Fijians excel at rugby sevens -- a sport where speed, stamina and footwork is so important.
    Matches are short -- typically fourteen minutes -- but with so few players on each side, the pitch can seem vast. Finding the speed in your legs to sprint to the try line is one thing; it's doing it time and again over the course of a game that makes rugby sevens so physically draining.
    Just ask Brian O'Driscoll -- a legend of the 15-a-side game with 133 caps for Ireland who has taken part in training sessions with international sevens teams.
    "What I found so hard was the repeat nature of what they do. You can take a break after scoring a try but then immediately there's another ball that comes alive," O'Driscoll tells CNN.
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    "You think you'll get five or ten seconds to recover but immediately you have to put effort upon effort. Ultimately that's what differentiates a lot of sevens players from other players.
    "Fourteen minutes might seem like a short amount of time but when there's that much space on the pitch and there's that much ball-in-play time and that little amount of kicking, it's obviously exhausting ... They're quite remarkable athletes."
    Fiji's national team currently leads the HSBC Sevens World Series ahead of South Africa. Two legs of the season remain in London and Paris, where Fiji will look to secure a third title in four years.