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Super Effort: Cotter

“This is great news for Fijian Rugby and it is wonderful that the efforts over the years from players and management have paid off to have Fiji rugby included in an elite competition,” Cotter said.
18 Apr 2021 11:58
Super Effort: Cotter
Drua product... Flying Fijians and London Irish No.8 Albert Tuisue played for the Fijian Drua when they won the 2018 Australia’s National Rugby Championship. Photo: London Irish

All provincial teams and players must lift their standards of play if the Fijian Drua is to be competitive at the 2022 Super Rugby competition.

This was the gist of Flying Fijians head coach Vern Cotter’s message after New Zealand Rugby had granted a provisional licence to participate in a professional 12- team competition from next year.

The competition consists of five New Zealand teams, five Australian teams, Moana Pasifika and the Drua.

“This is great news for Fijian Rugby and it is wonderful that the efforts over the years from players and management have paid off to have Fiji rugby included in an elite competition,” Cotter said.

However, the no-nonsense coach reiterated the need to be competitive.

“Watching both New Zealand and Australian Super teams we know we will need to develop all possible structures and attitudes to win games and add value,” he added.

Fiji Rugby Union chief executive officer John O’Connor said the announcement by NZR was timely, with the Skipper Provincial Cup competition had just kicked off last weekend.

Staying home

“We’ve already identified talents that we will sign locally and most of them are already Flying Fijians and playing domestically,” he said.

“Now we will engage other players. Our early discussions involved having 16 overseas based-players and 16 local players.”

O’Connor said a Super Rugby franchise on home soil will change the landscape of rugby in the country forever.

“Every kid now who wakes up tomorrow has a new dream: to be part of the Fijian Drua and to play professional rugby at home and not leave their families and go to a different environment.

“It’s not only a dream for our players, it’s a dream for the match officials, coaches and so forth – it’s a total pathway for us which has been missing for long.”

The announcement is already having an effect, with O’Connor confirming some of Fiji’s top sevens rugby players have pulled the plug on plans to sign for overseas clubs.

“They’ve indicated they would like to play sevens and then switch over (to the Fijian Drua), so it’s already starting. Players we would have lost after the Olympics now have the opportunity to stay back and switch to 15s.”

Contingency plan

O’Connor confirmed there is also a contingency plan to base the Drua in New Zealand next season if COVID-19 prevents them from being able to travel internationally.

“The opportunity was too great to be determined by the opening of a (travel) bubble. If we are required to move and relocate to New Zealand for the first year or something then that’s something that we’ve assured New Zealand Rugby that we are willing to do.”

O’Connor said they hope to announce the appointment of a head coach and players over the coming weeks and months, with plans for the new team to begin pre-season training in October.

“We just want to be competitive the first year and that’s one of the requirements by New Zealand Rugby that we need to be competitive, and with the planning that’s going on and the appointment of the coach and the players. It’s good to be in the competition, we will prepare well and anything is possible after that,” he added.

Feedback: leonec@fijisun.com.fj



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