“A lack of sta­bil­ity comes along­side amaz­ing off­loads and raw tal­ent in Fiji”

Rugby World - - NEWS WHERE ARE THEY NOW? -

my in­ter­view for the Fiji sev­ens head coach job wasn’t the most straight­for­ward. a tweet let me know the job was be­ing ad­ver­tised. One email to the Fru later and i was told i’d be hav­ing a skype in­ter­view at 2am. the shrill noise to tell me of an in­com­ing skype call ar­rived at 4am and the ad­ven­ture be­gan, as did my first taste of ‘Fiji time’. the in­ter­view went well – for starters i was pretty pleased that i had stayed awake wait­ing for the call!

the fol­low­ing morn­ing, as i looked on the Fiji times web­site to find out more about the is­lands, the news on the back page was that the CeO, who had led the in­ter­view, had been sacked. it’s a good ex­am­ple of a lack of foun­da­tions and sta­bil­ity that of­ten comes along­side amaz­ing off­loads and raw tal­ent. in my three years, i had a num­ber of CeOs, chair­men and boards. this sort of flux means plan­ning and pro­gres­sion is hard.

when i ar­rived in Fiji to coach the sev­ens side, the union was bank­rupt, world rugby had sus­pended all fund­ing and i was to be a vol­un­teer for the first five months. that meant all the fab­u­lous play­ers rep­re­sent­ing the na­tional teams would also do so for free. there was no cen­tre to train in, the team bus needed petrol – we had noth­ing.

i left post-rio with fund­ing in place for a world-class coach, a cen­tral con­tracts sys­tem for the play­ers and a train­ing base, in­clud­ing a gym that was crowd-funded.

ef­fec­tively i cre­ated a sev­ens en­vi­ron­ment that was in a bub­ble; as long as we were left alone to get on with the pro­gramme, we would achieve re­sults and leave some foun­da­tions. the Prime Min­is­ter was sup­port­ive and pro­vided me with the abil­ity to con­trol things with­out board in­tru­sion and that was a ma­jor help in achiev­ing Olympic gold. How­ever, that is a sys­tem built for sev­ens only and it is vul­ner­a­ble if not con­trolled prop­erly.

to put to­gether a high-per­for­mance pro­gramme, you look at peo­ple, re­sources and fund­ing. the Pa­cific na­tions have bril­liant play­ers and the new el­i­gi­bil­ity rules will help them re­tain much of their tal­ent, but for real pro­gres­sion that tal­ent must be kept on the is­lands.

For that to hap­pen, full-time pro­fes­sional con­tracts are needed do­mes­ti­cally, with well-qual­i­fied coaches de­liv­er­ing ex­per­tise from Kaji (mini) rugby to test level.

Level three-qual­i­fied coaches on the is­land are in low sin­gle fig­ures, com­pared with the thou­sands in eng­land. Fiji has a huge gap that needs to be filled – with lo­cal, not over­seas, coaches. the cul­ture is such a unique one that ide­ally lo­cals would fill the ma­jor­ity of the key po­si­tions, but at the mo­ment that’s not pos­si­ble.

Head­lines were made in novem­ber when i talked of a po­ten­tial su­per rugby fran­chise in Fiji. yes, i had been con­tacted by in­vestors who had se­ri­ous cash. i used the me­dia to bring this to the at­ten­tion of sanZaar and that led to a meet­ing. How­ever, i was told by the Fru that i was no longer in­volved in Fi­jian rugby and, though my only aim was to get the ball rolling, i backed off and the in­vestors went else­where. i hope it’s res­ur­rected as it would keep the best play­ers on the is­lands.

Hav­ing no pro rugby in the Pa­cific means we can’t moan when play­ers go over­seas. it also means the con­tact time the Xvs team has to­gether is very small and any na­tion that has 95% of their squad play­ing over­seas is not go­ing to be suc­cess­ful on the test stage.

agents need to be reg­u­lated too. i’ve known of bad ones get play­ers drunk be­fore train­ing, lie to them, take huge per­cent­ages and leave them to fend for them­selves over­seas once they have their pound of flesh.

in all, there is much work still to do if Fiji is to achieve its po­ten­tial in all forms of the game.

BEN RYAN ThE coAch who gu idEd F i ji To gol d – ANd ouR NEw REs­i­dENT colum­NisT

Can't catch me! waisea nacuqu breaks for Fiji sev­ens

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