International Rugby Board has Cancelled Funding to Fiji Rugby Union

Fiji Rugby Union hope to maintain international competition schedule despite IRB funding cuts

Updated 15 January 2014, 15:04 AEST


The IRB has cut funding to Fiji of $AU2 million dollars, after expressing frustration at the pace of reforms in the administration of the code in Fiji. (Credit: AFP)



The Fiji Rugby Union says it hopes to maintain its international competition schedule despite having its funding slashed by the International Rugby Board.

The IRB has cut funding to Fiji of $AU2 million dollars, after expressing frustration at the pace of reforms in the administration of the code in Fiji.

Organisers of next month's rugby sevens tournament in Wellington say Fiji will compete, and the FRU says it plans to keep up its competition in both sevens and 15s

The FRU's acting chief executive, Berlin Kafoa, says the IRB had not govern his board enough time to complete a reform program.

"We are concerned that the IRB have not given us enough time to implement recommendations...that were given to us to implement," he said.

"The letter...suspending funds only came up in December 2013, so in all fairness, we have set a deadline for May 2014 to implement the reforms that we, the board, see fit and is in line with the review done by IRB."

A review carried out by the IRB recommended changes to Fiji Rugby Union's administration and financial management.

Will Glenwright, the IRB's Oceania general manager, says it's been an issue since May 2013, when the Fiji Rugby Union asked for emergency financial help to make sure Fiji could compete in the Pacific Nations Cup.

He said the FRU was given the money on the proviso that there was a detailed examination of its finances.

"In terms of the governance, it the broad failure of the Board to apply what we would consider to be fundamental governance principles relating to the decision-making process of the Board, the structure and composition of the Board and the legal structure of the organisation as well," he said.

"The heart of this problem is the financial sustainability of the union - the union has a large debt and a growing debt...and there is no foreseeable way that the union has any plans or means by which to address this debt.

"What we've got to remember now is that the Fiji Rugby Union is a multi-million dollar organisation and it competes at the highest level of the game."

Berlin Kafoa says the previous management of the FRU had stood in the way of the review, but the current board is making progress on the changes.

"We are doing the reforms not out of satisfaction to the IRB, but out of satisfaction to what we think they should be for organisations with accepted standards of practice in finance and governance and human resources, etc.," he said.

"We were doing that so that by the time we were re-engaging with the IRB, we would have all that in place.

"I think one of the things that we are concerned about is the IRB dictating to us what we should do in our own country for our own rugby."

The IRB had also reportedly expressed concerns around what local media described as "startling revelations" that the new coach of the sevens squad, Ben Ryan had not been paid since he took up his post three months ago.

Fiji Rugby Union say Ryan agreed to work without payment until this year, when extra funding became available to the FRU.

"Ben has made some sacrifices given Fiji Rugby Union's financial woes, and he volunteered for the first couple of months while we were sorting things out with the financial situation," Berlin Kafoa said.

"That definitely said a lot about Ben as a person, because the package that we offered is nowhere near what he would have earned in England, so I can correctly say he was very keen, and we are very appreciative."



 Please share some thoughts on this issue facing Rugby House & our beloved nation......





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Fijiana reps help Seahawks win Nawaka 7s women's event


MARIST Seahawks stamped its dominance in the women's rugby when it demolished Central Chiefs 26-5 in the 27th Fiji Bitter Marist 7s women final at Prince Charles Park yesterday.

The side scored four tries to Chiefs' one to walk away with the $1000 prizemoney offer.

Laced with seven members of the Fijian team that recently returned from the China 7s, the Seahawks spread their wings past the Chiefs to maintain their unbeaten run in the two-day competition.

Lavinia Tinai, Roela Radinivualiku, Eta Logaivau and Rusila Tamoi scored a try each in a one-sided affair.

Coach Joseph Robert Subramani commended his girls for their effort.

He said the players worked hard to fulfil their goal of winning the tournament.

"It was a tremendous performance from the girls starting yesterday in the pool games," said Subramani.

"Despite of some niggling injuries we managed to work together to produce this magnificent result.

"We never underestimated any team during the tournament."



A star is born


ANOTHER rugby star was unearthed at the 27th Fiji Bitter Nawaka 7s at Nadi's Prince Charles Park yesterday.

Yamacia playmaker Ropate Labalaba has joined the list of rugby stars that were identified at this tournament after being selected in the national Vodafone 7s 18-member squad to prepare for the last leg of the HSBC IRB 7s leg.

And the icing on the cake was when the 26-year-old was named the player of the tournament from among the hundreds of players that competed at the two-day tournament.

The Korolevu, Navosa native was instrumental in his side's big win over Tokatoka Westfield Dragons in the semi-final scoring a crucial try to shatter the Dragons dream of winning the title for the third successive year.

He did his best in the final against Police National but it was not enough to give his team the win as his side bowed out 22-19.

The soft spoken Navosa lad credited his achievements to the Almighty God.

He said he had been working hard for the past five years to make the national 7s squad.

Labalaba also dedicated his achievement to the sacrifice and perseverance he endured at training every day.

"I thank the Lord for giving me the desire of my heart and the onus is on me to work hard to make the final selection," he said.

"This is a huge opportunity for me and I will do my best to represent Fiji."

He also thanked his teammates for their assistance that enabled him to be selected in the national 7s team.

Meanwhile, Ben Ryan has retained the core team that took part at the Japan and Hong Kong 7s tournaments.

Veteran Pio Tuwai and Setefano Cakau have retained their spot in the side.

Fiji 7s team: Viliame Mata, Pio Tuwai, Semi Kunatani, Apisai Domolailai, Setefano Cakau, Benito Masilevu, Emosi Mulevoro, Waisea Nacuqu, Osea Kolinisau, Vatemo Ravouvou, Donasio Ratubuli, Samisoni Viriviri, Leo Naikasau, Jasa Veremalua, Samuela Saqiwa, Jona Tuitoga, Joeli Lutumailagi, Ropate Labalaba.


Final 7s test


THE next three days will be important for the 18 players in the Vodafone Fiji 7s training squad if they want to be in the final team for the last leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series.

The players will be in camp for the next three days to kick-start preparations for the Scotland and London 7s tournaments.

Team manager Paula Biu said the players needed to show coach Ben Ryan what he wanted to see in a team that was determined to perform well and win.

He said players from the new extended squad, which was in camp last week, may impress Ryan and could make the cut for the final 16-member squad for the next leg.

"After these next three days of training, we can say something on how the team is shaping up," Biu said.

"Last week, we had the new extended training squad. We're working on the current squad this week and we will see what the players have to show us.

"Maybe Ben has seen something in some players in the extended squad that might not be in the current squad, so we don't know which players will be in the final 16-member squad."

Biu said the squad had fitness and the main focus now was on the skills, game pattern and combination.

"Ben is working on the skills and game pattern to suit the weather there (London and Scotland) and the combination is something he is working on as well."

Fiji is pooled with Wales, Argentina and Kenya at the Glasgow 7s.

Fiji remains on third spot with 112 points while New Zealand (136) is first and South Africa (129) second.

The Glasgow 7s will be held on May 3 and 4.

National 7s squad: Viliame Mata, Pio Tuwai, Semi Kunatani, Apisai Domolailai, Setefano Cakau, Benito Masilevu, Emosi Mulevoro, Waisea Nacuqu, Osea Kolinisau, Vatemo Ravouvou, Donasio Ratubuli, Samisoni Viriviri, Leo Naikasau, Jasa Veremalua, Samuela Saqiwa, Jona Tuitoga, Joeli Lutumailagi, Ropate Labalaba.

Members of the Vodafone Fiji 7s team named by coach Ben Ryan at The Pearl South Pacific Resort at Pacific Harbour yesterday. Picture: JONE LUVENITOGA

3 recalled

APISAI Domolailai celebrated his 25th birthday with his inclusion in the Vodafone Fiji 7s team for the London and Scotland tournaments.

Domolailai was caught off guard as he was hosted to a surprise birthday reception by staff of The Pearl South Pacific Resort during the Fiji 7s team naming at Pacific Harbour yesterday.

Also making their Easter weekend a special one were towering forward Viliame Mata, Yamacia strongman Semi Kunatani and Wardens speedster Leo Naikasau, all of whom reclaimed their spots for the final leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series this season.

Domolailai said he could not ask for anything better as a birthday wish than to be included in the Ben Ryan-coached side.

"I was surprised by the birthday reception," Domolailai said.

"When we left the team camp, I only thought we were here for the team naming but to be hosted in such a special way is something I'll cherish and I thank the hotel staff for their hospitality."

The occasion presented Domolailai with an opportunity to reminisce about his boyhood upbringing by his grandparents.

"I thank God for reaching this special day. I know I went through struggles but with the help of my grandparents I endured the hardship to be here in the national team.

"I thank the team management for trusting my potential and giving me another chance to represent Fiji for the first time in London and Scotland."

Coach Ryan said the trio of Naikasau, Kunatani and Mata proved their worth to reclaim their spots in the national side.

"I pick players on form and the Nawaka 7s provided me with good opportunities with some of the boys with some of the good forwards with Mata and Semi.

"It's good consistency and fighting spirit within the forwards and like I said, I'll pick on form."

The Scotland 7s kicks off on May 3 with Fiji drawn in Pool C with Wales, Argentina and Kenya.

Fiji 7s: Apisai Domolailai, Benito Masilevu, Donasio Ratubuli, Emosi Mulevoro, Leo Naikasau, Osea Kolinisau, Pio Tuwai, Samisoni Viriviri, Semi Kunatani, Vatemo Ravouvou, Viliame Mata, Waisea Nacuqu.

Staff members of The Pearl South Pacific Resort Spar surprise national 7s rep Apisai Domolailai with a song and a cake to celebrate his birthday yesterday. Picture: JONE LUVENITOGA

7s farewell

VODAFONE Fiji 7s speedster Samisoni Viriviri wants to leave the sevens arena on a flying note as he sets his sights on a Flying Fijian jersey.

Just as he is playing to the name tag "Flying Fijian", Viriviri is now the season's top try scorer with 40 tries under his belt with two tournaments remaining — the HSBC Sevens World Series tournaments in Scotland and London next month .

Just like other Fijian rugby stars such as Marika Vunibaka, Vilimone Delasau, Seru Rabeni and Viliame Satala, who started their rugby careers in the abbreviated code, Viriviri says he'll grab the opportunity with both hands when he joins French Top 14 club Montpellier.

"I'm looking forward to joining my club in France and learn as much as I can," he said.

"But first I must focus on these final two tournaments in Scotland and London. I want to give my best shot and end the series on a high note."

Viriviri accredited his teammates for helping him become the season's top try scorer.

"I really did not expect to be the top try scorer at the start of the season but it's teamwork and I thank the boys for that.

"I believe Ben (Ryan) also encouraged me a lot and he has told me to go for the top try award and that is going to push me to the next level in London and Scotland."

Viriviri said wearing the Flying Fijians jersey at the 2015 Rugby World Cup would be a dream come true.

"I'll see what happens when I join my club in France.

"It's going to take time to adapt to playing the full code and all I want to do is to learn as much knowledge as possible to help improve my game and probably I'll try to make it to the next Rugby World Cup."

Viriviri will join his French club in June.

Ryan's Fiji experience

Ben Ryan

The national 7s team with coach Ben Ryan at the Pearl Resort last week. Picture: JONE LUVENITOGA

AS Ben Ryan prepares his Fiji 7s team for the last two tournaments of the IRB Series, he writes for UR7s on his experiences this season and helps us understand a little more about the great rugby 7s playing nation of Fiji.

This week we flew to Scotland and the last two legs of the HSBC Sevens World Series via Seoul of all places. The differences I have experienced this year coaching another nation in the series have been far too numerous to write down here. It would be really easy for me to talk about what we don't have compared with the other sides in the top 4 at the moment.

Yet the bottom line is you can get a team fit and unified without resources, without money and without a large back room staff. We all cut our cloth accordingly and I don't think for one moment any head coach in the series is happy with the resources and time available at his disposal. I am sure everyone wants to keep striving to get better on and off the field. What we all want is competition for places, consistency of availability of players and as much time as we can get with your team on the field to give yourself the best chance to execute the style you want as coach.

With Fiji, change has come on and off the field this year in a fairly short space of time. From October on the Gold Coast to Twickenham on the no coast, only 5 players will have been in both those squads. I needed to make selection transparent, pick on form and watch as much club 7s as I could. So far, I have seen about 300 games and got a fair idea of the quality out there and also the level of coaching, officiating, management and technical expertise on the island. All invaluable information to help make informed choice going forward.

Twenty Six players have been capped this season and again this has given me a good base to start to form the right squad next year to make sure we are again in the top 4 in the series to gain automatic entry to the Rio Olympics in 2016. I always said if you can keep the squad caps to fewer than twenty in a season then that's a good indication that injuries have been low and selection has been right. I didn't pick the team for Gold Coast and six of those players haven't made the team since that tournament, so the bulk of the season has been 20 players and they have all come through the process very well with a further group of players that are knocking hard on the door by playing well in the domestic scene.

It is a big jump from domestic to international but much less so than probably any other nation and it's a big advantage for Fiji that we have a talented player pool playing regular 7s. That was a huge factor in some of Fiji's success over the past twenty years. While other countries picked players that had mainly been playing 15s to come into their 7s teams for the big tournaments, Fiji had talented players that had probably played a full season of domestic 7s before breaking into the national squad. That advantage has narrowed now as our rivals train in fulltime environments and have probably now more time together than we would as a national squad. Change will come next season as we contract fulltime players to the union to allow us to ensure the players can train, rest and eat to the level we need to be the best they can be. It's the next step needed for Fiji.

Who are in the Fiji 7s squad?

Looking down our list of players for the leg in Scotland and its an interesting read:

Seven of the side are unemployed. Two are prison wardens, a hotel porter, a policeman and a navy man. Their employers are great in allowing release to train generally and the unemployed lads get a huge lift when a win bonus kicks in and they can earn from doing something they feel incredibly proud to be doing but fulltime will make a huge difference.

I have also had one of two situations when players are played in tournaments either when they should be rested, are injured or too close to us leaving for a tournament and injury becomes a huge risk. Some players have also missed the chance to come into an extended squad recently for similar reason and its a real shame when those players that work hard to get identified are then not able to come to training or get injured in a small tournament. I have no doubt accumulated fatigue in one or two players have meant some drops in performance individually this season.

Full time should also help that, as everyone should be making player centered decisions. We will still allow them to play for their clubs while contracted but it means if they are injured or need resting then that can happen to give the players the best chance to be fit and 100 per cent.

Rugby changes lives the world over

As I have spent more time with the team, I have got to know more about their backgrounds and build better relationships with the team and feel more as one with everyone. I cant say its been straightforward but its certainly improved and they all feel a lot more relaxed around me while knowing that I am pretty inflexible on standards off the field around diet, drinking and timing. I haven't had a single issue with a single player on tour and I cant see that changing as we are all desperate to make the most of the opportunity to fight for a gold medal in Rio and every decision we make now as individuals counts towards that goal.

I knew the England boys pretty well and certainly count some of them, as very good friends of whom I am sure will remain so for our life times. I know what obstacles and barriers they have had along their way and how hard it has been at times to make it.

In Fiji, it's the same and rugby can change lives. One example is one of our rising stars that left school at 15 to work in the sugar cane fields, chopping the cane all day to bring in money for the family. He made his debut this year into the national team, along with nine other debutants in the world series and it is a pretty powerful story and it drives him hard to make sure he does all he can to be his best version. It's not an isolated tale, many similar stories attached to our players wearing the famous white shirt.

So to the final two legs and a return to me personally to Twickenham with another nation. As far as that is concerned, I am sure it will be slightly weird at first, but I have already been with the team all around the world and that novelty has worn off now. I am tempted to visit with the side some of my favourite spots in London, proud to be a Londoner and keen to show it off. But that would be a mistake. We are here to work, to win and to do as well as we can so that will all be kept to a minimum.

Look further than the table

The table also paints an interesting picture and perhaps a review of the series points is worth doing. We sit in third, having lost 7 games and winning two finals. England just below have lost 13 games and no tournament wins yet and South Africa have two titles and 8 losses. New Zealand are top of the pile and have lost just 6 games and won 3 titles.

This is a personal viewpoint but I think winning a leg of the series is a very tough thing to do and should merit more series points. The IRB have been incredibly responsive to the teams views over all the various issues on and off the field and we have already revamped the points and pools recently as a result of all of the team's input. You currently only get 3 points more winning a title than the runner-up, only a point more than other splits in positions. I would increase that significantly and look to double its reward compared with the other placing's. If that had been imposed this year then the positions wouldn't have been changed but the margins between would. I think it's worth looking at.

Our preparation has been pretty short. It took 3 days to get back after the HK tournament and we were pretty banged up so needed to get rest even if I wanted them on the field as soon as possible. It seems to have worked and players have now got back to training, had some tough sessions, arguably one of their hardest sessions to date under me last week and will have another few days this week.

We also had the Nawaka 7s last week, which is a killer of tournament in the heat this year. Five games on the second day of the tournament certainly gave those that played game time and match fitness and one or two players caught my eye along the course of the weekend. Not winning HK caused a lot of chat among the population.

We had lost less games than any other team over the Tokyo and HK legs and won the Japanese leg for the first time beating NZ for the third time this season en route, narrowed the gap above us and widened it below. Yet all everyone talked about was our loss against England in the sem-final in Hong Kong. We had won our last two games against them and I had a good idea about how they would defend and attack slightly differently against us and they did that very well. The team learnt a lot from those 14 minutes, were completely distraught after the match and it was as hard a place to be in the changing rooms after that game that I have witnessed. To win the third place game was great and really reconfirmed to me that we have a team that is learning fast, prepared to work hard and will get better and better.

It's no doubt going to be a tough two final tournaments. Many teams also have one eye on selection for the Commonwealth Games and I am sure all those players will be keen to impress. The European teams always do well in the final two legs and the series is still up for grabs as is the occupancy of the final relegation spot. Throw all that in plus what we all hope will be another world record crowd at Twickenham and you can be sure this is going to be a fantastic finale again to the season and you should also see a Fijian side flying again.


McKee is Flying Fijians coach

The Fiji Rugby Union confirmed last night of his appointment adding McKee was selected ahead of 24 other applicants.

McKee was appointed the FRU High Performance Unit manager in November last year.

According to FRU, McKee comes well qualified as he is an Australian Rugby Union Level 3 coach.

"He has an NZRU-Massey University Diploma of Management (rugby coaching). He has an Australian Strength and Conditioning Association Level 1 Coaching certification. He also has a Fitness Instructor certification from Monash University.

"The New Zealand-born McKee spent 6 seasons coaching in the Northern Hemisphere from the year 2000, including time at Clermont-Ferrand (France) & Connaught (Ireland) as an assistant coach. 

"He returned to Australia in 2007 and was head coach of the Central Coast Rays, winners of the Australian Rugby Championship."





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