Fiji Sports | Rugby

Fiji A Threat In Pool Of Kiwi Coaches

Let’s call it the Kiwi pool of death – the Rugby World Cup group brimming with New Zealand coaches. In one corner stands Wallabies coach Dave Rennie. Another is occupied
15 Dec 2020 13:21
Fiji A Threat In Pool Of Kiwi Coaches
The 2023 Rugby World Cup Draws Announced.

Let’s call it the Kiwi pool of death – the Rugby World Cup group brimming with New Zealand coaches.

In one corner stands Wallabies coach Dave Rennie. Another is occupied by Wales coach Wayne Pivac, and then there’s Fiji coach Vern Cotter and his army of Kiwi assistants.

One by one their sides were yesterday drawn in Pool C for the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France, the second straight World Cup the three nations have shared a pool.

Only this time cannibalisation is a given. There is only room for two of these Kiwi-led teams to advance to the knock-out stages, assuming the two yet to be confirmed qualifiers set to join Pool C don’t cause a string of upsets.

It’s not a stretch to say Pool C is arguably the most intriguing of the four, even more so than Pool A, which features hosts France and the All Blacks.

Because something could be brewing in Fiji, a country which is pressing for the inclusion of a side in the 2022 Super Rugby competition.

Rennie and Pivac, who coached Fiji in 2007, would best keep an eye on what Cotter is attempting to morph 11th ranked Fiji into.

Cotter has recruited Crusaders forwards coach Jason Ryan, former All Blacks midfielder and Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson, former Chiefs playmaker and international referee Glen Jackson, and breakdown specialist Richie Gray.

Fiji has always had the talent but consistently fulfilling their potential is another thing, as Ryan told Stuff after accepting Cotter’s offer to coach their forwards through until the conclusion of the 2023 tournament.

“The biggest area when you look at Fiji rugby is the forward pack needs to make some shifts,” Ryan said.

“They can offload, they’re explosive, they can play with power and natural ability and instincts, but just getting a little bit of detail and bit more ruthlessness in their pack is a great challenge I’m looking forward to.”

In preparation for the job, Ryan worked with Crusaders wing Manasa Mataele and his uncle, former Crusader Seta Tamanivalu, learning the national anthem, understanding their religion and the way of life in Fijian villages.

“The big part for me as a forwards coach is getting people’s trust. If players trust you, they will play for you,” Ryan said.

In Cotter’s first game in charge, Fiji beat Georgia 38-24 in their lone Autumn Nations Cup fixture earlier this month, after their first three games were canned due to a Covid-19 outbreak within their squad.

They fielded a side which included outstanding centre Semi Radradra, livewire halfback Frank Lomani and electric wing Josua Tuisova – a sample of dangerous players who should still be around in three years.

They’ll be better for a slated test against the All Blacks next year, too, the first between the sides since they played in Dunedin in 2011.

“There’s no easy pool. If you look at the three sides that are confirmed in this pool they are all really tough.” Rennie said.

“Fiji has got amazing athletes and with Vern [Cotter] being in charge, he’ll give them an edge which will be a real difference.”

Rennie and Pivac haven’t exactly tasted early success since taking over from Michael Cheika and Warren Gatland respectively.

Rennie won just one of six tests this year, while Wales lost six straight tests under Pivac this year and finished fifth in the Six Nations.

“It’s a similar pool but in another country,” Pivac in reaction to the draw.

“I’m certainly very excited though. Fiji have just been in the Autumn Nations Cup and I’ve got an affinity with Fiji having coached them in 2007.

“It gives us a focal point. Australia with Dave [Rennie] is going to be a big challenge.”

AT A GLANCE

Pool A: New Zealand, France, Italy, Americas 1 and Africa 1

Pool B: South Africa, Ireland, Scotland, Asia / Pacific 1 and Europe 2

Pool C: Wales, Australia, Fiji, Europe 1 and Final Qualifier Winner

Pool D: England, Japan, Argentina, Oceania 1 and Americas 2.-Rugby Heaven

Feedback: oseab@fijisun.com.fj


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