Review U20 Selection Criteria: Ex Manager

The Fijian Under-20 rugby side had player’s ranging from 16 to 19 years of age and this contributed to their heavy de­feats in the recent Oceania Rugby U20 Championship in Australia.
24 Jul 2022 19:16
Review U20 Selection Criteria: Ex Manager
Fijian Under-20 back Tremaine Little (right) is helped by a team-mate against Australia during the Oceania competition. Photo: Oceania Rugby

The Fijian Under-20 rugby side had player’s ranging from 16 to 19 years of age and this contributed to their heavy de­feats in the recent Oceania Rugby U20 Championship in Australia.

This is because Fijian players ma­ture late.

This was the view of former Fi­jian Under-20 and now Naitasiri rugby team manager Maciu Ko­roiqaqa who expressed his concern over the team’s humiliating perfor­mance.

They were thrashed 74-5 by New Zealand, walloped 58-5 by Australia and the 61-5 beating by Argentina.

Koroiqaqa said the Fiji Rugby (FRU) Union should review the na­tional U20 selection process.

“The criteria is to select players between the ages of 18 to 20-years-old,” he said.

“The selection for this team start­ed from players who are 16-years-old. There’s a big difference in the age group, the weight, the height and the size. We are not building for the future we are supposed to take an under-20 team because that competition is a special one.”

Koroiqaqa said age group rugby is important and we need to take it seriously.

“For Fijians when we grow older our build is stronger along with the will of determination. There is a huge gap between a 16 and an 18-year-old so when they play peo­ple from outside will think that the older players are bullying the younger ones.”

Koroiqaqa said that he had al­ready managed an U20 side and was sharing his experience.

“I advised Bill Gadolo (FRU Elite Pathway manager) that you can’t expect to take a 16 to 18-year-olds to compete in that kind of com­petition. Those players are part of their academies from under-13 right to the under-20s. When you say under-19 it means 18-years-old and six months ahead to U19. For us the selection for under-20 was supposed to be for players who are 19 years of age and six months ahead to 20.”

The big mistake, Koroiqaqa said, was taking players who were 16, 17 and 18-years-old. Also, the se­lection should be focused more on players playing in the Skipper and Vodafone Vanua U19 competitions instead of the Deans Trophy. The vetting of overseas-based players should be done thoroughly espe­cially on the level of competition they are playing in before consid­ered for trials.

“If everything is the same then things will be easy to work on. The law of physics clearly says that you cannot balance three objects at one time.”

He also called on FRU to review their selection of national team managers.

Koroiqaqa said they should select managers who are like a father figure to the players and always encourages them when the going gets tough.

“We don’t need readymade man­agers so anyone can become a manager. It was a surprise that one of the baggage boys from Rugby House was the manager for the team that went to New Caledonia.

“Each position and role in the team has a huge job to do.

“It’s not easy to play the role of manager, physiotherapy or coach­ing a particular team.

“This is the national team and to have a poor performance has paint­ed a bad image and is a sad story.”


When contacted FRU chief ex­ecutive officer John O’Connor said they respect Koroiqaqa’s views on the U20 selection process.

“Our national team’s manager, Bill Gadolo has confirmed that he has not had any discussions with Mr. Koroiqaqa whatsoever in rela­tion to the selection process for the U20 early this year.

“Mr Gadolo also confirmed that he was the coach of the national under-20 team in 2015 when Mr. Koroiqaqa was appointed the man­ager, but he did not complete their journey since he walked off the job.”

O’Connor said in terms of the se­lection of the team, since 2020 and in view of COVID-19, they have had very little rugby including second­ary schools rugby.

“As such opportunities were given to eligible players to turn up for testing in the various centres in Nadi, Sigatoka, Suva and Labasa where they underwent gym and fit­ness testing.

“The players went through sev­eral trials and the best players were selected to represent our national U20 team. In the past years, due to the strong Deans (Trophy) competitions and play­ers being exposed to good quality strength and condition coaching.“Good coaches, players have eas­ily transitioned into the Fiji Rugby academy and further to the nation­al under-20 teams resulting in our promotion to the World Rugby U20 Championship in 2018.

There was great depth of players coming through the pathways and Fiji Rugby was able to work with players for two or three years be­fore they were selected for the U20 team. We did not have that luxury for the last three years.”

O’Connor said in the Oceania Rugby U20 competition, the Fijians were playing against Super Rugby players from Australia and New Zealand and there is a vast gap be­tween the Super competition and our competitions.

“We also do not have a lot of op­portunities for such international age group competitions as such building the confidence of these players to play at the next level regardless of age is a feat that we cannot just implement overnight.

“We are however, pleased, that we now can play 20 and 21-year-olds in our (Fijian) Drua and in the Flying Fijians in these recent years because we have fast tracked and exposed players early to a highly competitive environment. “An environment that can be en­hanced through our local competi­tion but more so at international level through regular high-level competitions.

“Further, we thank unions like Nadroga who are giving these young players opportunities to play top level domestic opportuni­ties and the players have risen to the occasion. Contrary to the views of Mr. Koroiqaqa.

“We believe that most young play­ers who have come through the pathways are ready to step-up and they just need to be given an oppor­tunity to play at the senior level of our competitions.”

“Our national U20 team have re­turned from the Oceania Rugby, and we are grateful that the play­ers have been exposed to that level of competition and we will start the build-up to the World Rugby U20 Championship next year after we have undertaken a thorough review of the team’s performance. Several players from the team will still be eligible to represent the team again next year.

“We respect Mr Koroiqaqa’s views on the team manager but the team manager who managed the team to New Caledonia did his job well and returned home with an unbeaten record compared to Mr. Koroiqaqa who was given the opportunity but failed to complete the campaign.

“Further, we do not believe Mr. Koroiqaqa also has the coaching accreditation to be an authority or an expert in age grade rugby.

“All the coaches involved in the U20 programme are former nation­al reps who had come through our pathways and are properly World Rugby accredited coaches includ­ing Bill Gadolo, Iferemi Rawaqa and Kele Leawere.”


Koroiqaqa refuted O’Connor’s claim that he had walked away from being the Fijian U20 manager.

“I was there when Radrodro Tabualevu nearly finished his tenure as Fiji Rugby chief execu­tive officer on December 8, 2015. It was all on paper, black and white, before the now CEO took the posi­tion,” he said.

“I did not walk off or didn’t cope with the manager’s role in 2015. The reason I left is because my 60 days of sporting leave was over. “This leave is given to a civil serv­ant who was selected to be an of­ficial or player of a Fiji national sporting team in a year, such peri­od also includes local and overseas training as well.

“For civil servants like me we also have policies to follow. I didn’t just leave like that, I had a job to do as well outside of rugby duties.”

Koroiqaqa said while with FRU apart from managing the Fijian U20 side, he was also the manager of the Fiji Warriors and the Fiji­ana team that played in Canberra, Australia.

“As a CEO of FRU, John O’Connor and his office staff are supposed to have records of officials and play­ers with them. He knows about my accreditations.

“It’s sad that they don’t even keep records of officials and players that have represented this coun­try,” he added.


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