Opinion

Fiji Rugby Continues Negotiations On Drua’s Super Rugby Bid

“We are encouraged by the progress we are making toward gaining an unconditional licence to compete in next year’s competition,”
15 Jul 2021 12:54
Fiji Rugby Continues Negotiations On Drua’s Super Rugby Bid

The Fiji Rugby Union is hopeful of being part of the Super Rugby 2022 franchise.

A source told SUNsports that talks with Rugby New Zealand and Rugby Australia on the Fijian Drua’s Super Rugby bid are on track.

Fiji Rugby Union chief executive John O’Connor said he was confident they would be joining the new franchise in 2022.

“We are encouraged by the progress we are making toward gaining an unconditional licence to compete in next year’s competition,” he said.

“COVID-19 has presented some obvious challenges, but we are confident we will be in a position to join Moana Pasifika in entering the final phase of planning for 2022 and beyond.”

Rugby Australia (RA) and NZR continue to work together toward finalising the structure for next year’s Super Rugby tournament based on the inclusion of Moana Pasifika and the Fijian Drua in a 12-team competition.

The FRU has to ensure that their financial criteria is met to allow them to start contracting for the fast-approaching 2022 Super Rugby season.

“We’re working each day getting all the finer details right,” Fiji Rugby’s High Performance general manager Simon Raiwalui said.

“It’s not long until the start of the competition so if we do get the go ahead, we’re going to have to be all guns blazing to get it sorted.

“We’ve got a number of players who we are interested in but we need a licence to start the actual process.

“Hopefully in the next week we get that decision and we can go ahead. We need that confirmation to plough ahead.

World Rugby was the first to announce FJD$3.44m per year backing for the Drua for three years.

The Australian Government then announced further funding for the preparatory works to ensure the Drua is truly sailing with further funding.

While a monetary value was not revealed, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) stated the amount was significant under the PacificAus Sports Programme. This figure will be in millions.

O’Connor had earlier stated the funds would go in the contracting of the 37 players and 28 coaching and management staff members.

It is likely that the Fijian Government will fund the first 3-5 years of the Drua’s participation.

The announcement is expected to be made in tomorrow’s national budget by the Minister of Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

This was similar to the Fijian Government’s earlier backing on a sporting project.

From 2014 to 2018 government funded the Fiji International golf tournament by pumping in $51.1m which resulted in economic benefits to the country of over $200m over the four years and opened Fiji to over 500 million homes through its media coverage.

Government allocated $8.6m in 2014, $12m in 2015, $9m in 2016, $9m in 2017, and $12.5m in 2018.

Fiji Rugby’s general manager commercial Brian Thorburn, who was then former CEO of the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) of Australia, played a crucial role in getting the Fiji International off the ground.

 

Change of heart

Meanwhile, top coach Joe Schmidt is combining his new job as World Rugby’s high performance chief with the needs of his son, but has not ruled out a return to professional rugby coaching.

Schmidt was in November appointed as the international governing body’s director of rugby and high performance.

He’s eight months into the job, which he does from his Taupo base, following a successful seven-year stint as coach of Ireland.

Speaking to Rugby News about an August fundraising event for the Hawthorndale Care Village in Invercargill, where he will be a guest speaker, he opened up on the challenges of his new job, his son’s health and rugby.

Having been a professional coach for 20 years it was a “bizarre twist being on the other side of the divide”, working for World Rugby, he said.

His new job was busier than expected, “particularly trying to stay agile with Covid-19 at the moment, it’s complicated”.

He would “never say never” to a return to coaching, but it was not on his immediate radar, he said.

Schmidt was earlier linked to coaching the Drua, given his close friendship with Flying Fijians head coach Vern Cotter.

He was also pursued by Moana Pasifika who are rumoured to acquire the services of former Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger.

Feedbackranobab@fijisun.com.fj

 

 



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