Why Them? Cotter Tells

Gray, one of the world’s leading breakdown coaches, is ready to start work with the Flying Fijians.
11 Aug 2020 13:04
Why Them? Cotter Tells
From left-right: Breakdown, attack and defence specialist Richie Gray (left) and Fiji Airways Flying Fijians head coach Vern Cotter (right).

Fiji Airways Flying Fijians head coach Vern Cotter has revealed the reasons why he opted for the following coaches to assist him.

The former Scotland head coach had named Daryl Gibson as his attack coach, Jason Ryan as the forwards coach along with Ritchie Gray and former international referee Glen Jackson.

“I’m really happy with the coaching staff that we’ve been able to assemble, first of all, they’re good people,” he said.

Cotter highlighted on what he had based his selection on:

  • Jason Ryan- He has been winning titles with the Crusaders, the latest is on clinching the Super Rugby Aotearoa title on Sunday. Ryan’s a tireless worker and will bring that ethic to his forward pack.
  • Daryl Gibson- Gibson has had experience at the top level as a player and coach. He played centre for the Crusaders and had 19 Test Caps for the All Blacks. He was the former Waratahs head coach, Crusaders backline coach and Maori All Blacks assistant coach, as well. These qualities will be pivotal in developing our attack.
  • Glen Jackson- He will look after an important facet of our game that needs developing- tactical kicking, goal kicking and skills- pass and catch.

With his previous experience as a world class referee he will give insights as to how referees interpret behaviours and actions on the field. If we can cut back our penalty count we’ll be less vulnerable.

  • Richie Gray is a specialist in the breakdown, attack and defence. Gray is one of the world’s leading breakdown coaches, having devised his own training equipment, the focus of his business, GSI Performance.

He’ll bring a wealth of experience to Cotter’s backroom staff, having spent three years working with the Blitzbokke and the Springboks, as well as Scotland for two seasons.

Gray’s expertise around the collision extends to more than rugby, though.

He created the Gray Tackle System, equipment which is currently being used in the NFL, and he also worked as a consultant for the Miami Dolphins.

His attention to detail in those critical areas will make us become far more accurate.


Cotter also highlighted his concern on the Flying Fijians preparations in a new series (yet to be confirmed) involving England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Italy and Japan.

The proposed series is set from November 14 to December 5.

The proposed series has the Fijians in Group One where they take on England, Ireland and Wales, while Japan, Scotland, Italy and France are in Group Two.

“The first concern is the limited time we’ll have together before we play three big test matches.

“I’m counting on the players to prepare themselves as well as possible with their clubs,” he said.

Cotter said these games will be even more difficult than a Rugby World Cup pool.

“We’ll keep things simple, it will be clarity and the desire of the players to perform that will make all the difference,” he said.

World class talents

Meanwhile, Gray is relishing the prospect of working with the world-class talents in the Flying Fijians squad.

He will work on a short-term basis, joining Cotter’s staff for the (to-be-confirmed) Northern Hemisphere eight-nations tournament.

“International rugby suits me because I’ve got the business as well, and I’ve always fancied a crack with Fiji so I’m looking forward to working with this group,” Gray told Last Word On Rugby.

On their upcoming schedule, he added: “Everything is a challenge, so you may as well test yourself against the best in the world.”

Many have questioned why Gray’s undoubted talents have been ignored by Scottish Rugby since he departed along with Cotter at the end of the 2017 Six Nations.

Now, though, Gray’s looking forward to getting stuck in on the training field with the likes of Semi Radradra, Leone Nakarawa, and Josua Tuisova.

“They are a talented group. I’ve been lucky to coach some of the best players in the world – the great thing for me is that I’ve not worked with many of these guys before, so I’m looking forward to that,” he said.

“Everyone has strengths and weaknesses – there’s obviously things they are really good at already, but there are things they can get better at, too.

“From my point of view, we can definitely make some improvements around the contact and the breakdown.”

The Gala man is initially only involved for the extended Autumn window, but he’s open to staying on longer should his long-time colleague Cotter be interested.

“We’ll sit down after November and discuss it,” he said.

“Nobody really knows what’s going to go on – if there was another spike, you don’t even know that the November Tests will go ahead – so that’s one of the main reasons it’s a short-term deal at the moment.”

And he’s looking forward to reuniting with Cotter.

“I’ve worked with Vern for a while now– we did two years with Scotland and now three at Montpellier,” he said.

“So we know each other well, and it’s the one area (of the world) that I’ve not been (to coach) and it’s a massive rugby culture in the Pacific Islands so I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in.”

Edited by Percy Kean


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