TAKE ON BEN RYAN
Former Vodafone Fijian 7s rugby coach Ben Ryan is seriously working behind the scene to make Fiji a world force in 15s. Ryan, who became a living legend in Fiji after guiding our national rugby sevens team to win a gold medal at the Rio Olympics in August, is working on putting together a rock-solid proposal to convince SANZAR and World Rugby to include a Super Rugby team based in Fiji with academies in Samoa and Tonga. Ryan was the chief guest during the Hong Kong Rugby Union Long Lunch last Friday and spoke to the South China Morning Post Q&A. “One other thing I’m really passionate about is how we make sure that 15s doesn’t become an afterthought in Fiji,” Ryan told SCMP. “The No.1 thing is to have a Super Rugby team on the island, with academies in Samoa and Tonga. And potentially a longer term plan to have a second Pacific Island team, then a generation of coaches, physiotherapists, managers, a stadium, tourism – that’s something I’m really excited about trying to get a group of people together. We can put such a strong argument to Super Rugby and World Rugby that they can’t say no. We have a lot of people that want to put a lot of money into a franchise. That’s in the very early stages but I’m trying to get a group together to push that so that within five years it happens. If I can get that as a legacy or help part of that, that would change Fijian rugby and get them back to consistently getting to quarter-finals of World Cups and bringing the best talent back to the island. “They’ve talked for 20 years about it, but no-one’s done anything. Because no one’s come with a rocksolid proposal.”
7s and Olympics
Ryan was invited by the USA basketball giants New York Knicks to speak in a conference called Leaders in Sport. “The No.1 thing that surprised me was how many people watched the
I handed in my resignation about four months before the Olympics because I didn’t want anyone to read into what would happen or not happen at the Olympics into my decision.
sevens and the impact it had on the global scale. The New York Knicks players knew about Fiji sevens, they’d watched it in their locker room and were amazed with the athleticism of the Fijian boys and the similarities of the offloading and passing in basketball.”
“I handed in my resignation about four months before the Olympics because I didn’t want anyone to read into what would happen or not happen at the Olympics into
Former National 7s head coach my decision. I was always in for four years with Fiji and at the end of that I wanted to leave on a high, be the first Fiji coach not to get sacked and that’s what happened. So people were aware of my availability and we had some good offers and I’ve got some good offers on the table at the moment.”
South Africa Team to Beat
Having won the World Sevens Series for the two years in a row, Fiji will defend the title starting with the Dubai 7s from December 2-3. But Ryan is banking on South Africa to win the series by a landslide. “The door’s wide open for South Africa. They’re consistent, I think they’ll win the World Series and might win it by a landslide. They were unlucky the last two years, kept consistency, lost a couple of players but have a very good framework, very good set-up and are probably the most professional setup and the only ones of the top three without any real change. New Zealand will have new coach, some of their older players retired. It’s going to be a wide open series in many ways but I can’t see anybody challenging South Africa.”
Former Fijian national 7s coach Ben Ryan in the locker room of the New York Knicks in New York City, USA earlier this month.
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama with the victorious Fijian national 7s team and officials at the Rio Olympics in August.