Due Process And Best Interest of Fiji Rugby: FRU on Byrne Flying Fijians Coach Appointment

Fijian Drua coach Mick Byrne’s appointment as the new Head Coach for the FIJI Water Flying Fijians was made after a thorough process, and “in the best interest of Fiji Rugby”, as part of an agreement signed with World Rugby in May last year, the Fiji Rugby Union said.

In a statement announcing his appointment today, Rugby House stated that Byrne was named coach after securing a long-term work permit, and based on his extensive international coaching experience with teams such as Scotland, Japan, the Wallabies and the All Blacks, which aligned with Fiji’s aspirations to perform well on the global rugby stage, including potential participation in the Nations Championship, as well as potentially hosting 5-6 test matches against Tier 1 Nations each year between 2026 and 2030.

Bryne will complete the current Super Rugby Pacific season with the Swire Shipping Fijian Drua while overseeing the FIJI Water Flying Fijians’ preparations for the Barbarians, All Blacks test, July tests, and the end-of-the-year European Tour.

“The acceptance, and issuance of a long-term Fiji Work Permit, to Mick by the Department of Immigration was a prerequisite to this announcement as Fiji Rugby saw it imperative and necessary, to provide ample opportunity for Mick to obtain independent legal advice. It is a crucial step in complying with the immigration laws of Fiji and equally aligning with World Rugby’s selection criteria, guided by an Agreement executed between World Rugby, the Fiji Government, Fiji Rugby and ONOC in May 2023.
In a meeting convened in Suva between World Rugby representatives Nigel Cass and Simon Raiwalui, Siromi Turaga as Minister for Justice, Jese Saukuru as Minister for Youth and Sports, Fiji Rugby represented by the Board of Trustees and ONOC representative Cathy Wong, it was resolved that it is in the best interest of Fiji Rugby, that Mick Byrne be the Head Coach of the FIJI Water Flying Fijians,” the statement read.

“World Rugby clarified that the FIJI Water Flying Fijians’ performance and ranking at the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France, has put Fiji in a strong position to be part of the Nations Championship competition commencing 2026 to 2030. It would be detrimental to Fiji’s participation in the Nations Championship, in the 2024 Olympics, in the Super Rugby Pacific, the 2027 Rugby World Cup and the rest of the HSBC SVNS Series in Singapore and beyond, if the best-qualified and proven coaches are not appointed to Fiji’s high-performance national teams.

“The plan for Fiji’s participation is to be included in a 12-team competition of Tier 1 nations made up of the Six Nations, the SANZAR teams, Japan, and Fiji. The importance of that opportunity to Fiji Rugby, the Fiji Government, and all Fijians, is astronomical. It guarantees to engage in a high-level competition.”

The FRU further stated that the appointment and its resulting benefits provide a significant opportunity for further investment in Fiji’s High-Performance Unit, enabling participation in the Nations Championship. However, World Rugby has stressed that Fiji’s regular competition against Tier 1 nations depends on protecting this investment by appointing top coaches through a fair, transparent, and independent process.

Discussions with World Rugby also revolved around developing all Fijian coaches for international roles, both in the XVs and 7s environments. The Board of Trustees of Fiji Rugby and World Rugby have committed to supporting a coach development program aimed at increasing the pool of possible Fijian-based coaches with the ability to step into such roles and expose these coaches to different opportunities, either within Fiji through education and development, or overseas with other High-Performance unions and clubs.

Byrne is expected to address the media in Suva tomorrow, regarding his plans to lead the Flying Fijians in the upcoming Rugby World Cup cycle.

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