Head coach Gareth Baber, who has guided Fiji to within three points of HSBC World Sevens Series leaders USA despite injury disruptions, is warning that future success will need better systems to be introduced by the Fijian Rugby Union to help the reigning Olympic champions.
Fiji have two more Series events in London and Paris to try and finish top a year ahead of their 2020 Olympic title defence in Japan, however Baber wants to see significant changes to ensure the conveyor belt of outstanding talent continues to bolster his squad.
Baber set out his stance in the Fiji Rugby Union Annual report which showed a net income of $569,343 in 2018, up more than 49 per cent from $281,888 the previous year, it was announced at the Union’s AGM. Chief executive officer John O’Connor revealed the income growth was down to increased sponsorship and cost control measures. According the FRU 2018 annual report, the income stood at $18,122,540, while expenditure was $17,553,197.
Baber believes the FRU should, in the short term, address issues such as a consistent training venue for the national team, financial security, player retention, welfare support, player education, quality staff/personnel. Baber is adamant this would reduce “distractions” during the Series and sees an improvement in “centralised and controlled management” as vital if the development of the sevens game is not to be hampered.
He wrote: “At present the system very much resembles that which has been in existence for a number of decades (and granted it has been successful). Yet the competitive environment has changed. The game has shifted away from the “rugby players” towards a hybrid version of the individual, the rugby “athlete”. The game itself has changed and World Rugby continues to move on a path which is driven by a desire to produce a product which looks very different to the game in Fiji. Based on our resources, we need to think creatively about this and how we can make it a reality. We must look to skill and expertise on the Island. This can only be done through the leadership of the Fiji Rugby (Union).
“This requires an effort on behalf of FRU to build processes which create these learning opportunities such as coaching days, referee days, tournament review on the islands, domestic 7s series etc…”
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