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Fiji delay naming of Raiwalui successor as French coach gets backing

By Chris Jones
Fiji head coach Simon Raiwalui makes a point during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between Fiji and Portugal at Stadium de Toulouse on October 08, 2023 in Toulouse, France. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

The Fiji Rugby Union has confirmed there will be a delay in naming a head coach to replace Simon Raiwalui, whose time in charge ended after the Rugby World Cup in France.


FRU interim chairman Peter Mazey told the Fiji Sun that a previous announcement planned for this week had been amended as the selection panel continues to study the merits of the shortlist.

Previously, Fiji High Performance Unit chief Barrie-Jon Mather had said the process would be concluded by this week, and the delay comes as local media claimed Flying Fijian players based in Europe are pushing for Franck Boivert to be considered in the final round of selection.

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Boivert, a French national who has been living in Fiji for 27 years, is a former Fiji Rugby coaching director who is now Nadroga Rugby director of coaching.

Fijian Drua head coach Mick Byrne, who guided the side to the Super Rugby Pacific playoffs last season, and interim head coach Senirusi Seruvakula were expected to be the two leading names in the hat having reached the second round of interviews last week. New Zealand’s Daryl Gibson and Frans Ludeke of South Africa are two other coaches linked to the process.

Mazey said: “The final decision hasn’t been made as we’re waiting for references (for the candidates) and other information like contracts to be looked at. We are hoping to get the information and to go through it. We are not rushing the process to ensure that the right person is selected.

“We were hoping to do it by the end of the week but there won’t be an announcement.”

Support for Boivert has been noted throughout the process with Sailosi Naiteqe Sr, former Naitasiri head coach and Fiji 7s rugby selector, stating: “FRU should give Boivert the position of Flying Fijians head coach. Boivert was involved in rugby in Fiji as coach, development officer, HPU manager, technical adviser from club, provincial and national level.”


Mazey has previously made it clear the successful candidate will be expected to live full-time in Fiji and take charge of the entire high-performance system in the islands. A number of previous coaches have flown in and out of Fiji for training blocks while living abroad.



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Poorfour 10 hours ago
The AI advantage: How the next two Rugby World Cups will be won

AI models are really just larger and less transparent variants of the statistical models that have been in use since Moneyball was invented. And a big difference between the Icahn centre’s results and AI today is that ChatGPT-like Large Language Models can explain (to some degree) how they reached their conclusions. In terms of what impact they will have, I suspect it will have two primary impacts: 1) It will place a premium on coaching creativity 2) It will lead to more selections that baffle fans and pundits. Analysts will be able to run the models both ways: they will see their own team’s and players’ weaknesses and strengths as well as the opposition’s. So they will have a good idea at what the other team will be targeting and the decisive difference may well be which coaches are smart enough to think of a gameplan that the other side didn’t identify and prepare for. For players, it places a premium on three key things: 1) Having a relatively complete game with no major weaknesses (or the dedication to work on eliminating them) 2) Having the tactical flexibility to play a different game every week 3) Having a point of difference that is so compelling that there isn’t a defence for it. (3) is relatively rare even among pro players. There have been only a handful of players over the years where you knew what they were going to do and the problem was stopping it - Lomu would be the classic example. And even when someone does have that, it’s hard to sustain. Billy Vunipola in his prime was very hard to stop, but fell away quite badly when the toll on his body began to accumulate. So coaches will look for (1) - a lack of exploitable weaknesses - and (2) - the ability to exploit others’ weaknesses - ahead of hoping for (3), at least for the majority of the pack. Which is likely to mean that, as with the original Moneyball, competent, unshowy players who do the stuff that wins matches will win out over outrageous talents who can’t adapt to cover their own weaknesses. Which will leave a lot of people on the sidelines sputtering over the non-inclusion of players whose highlights reels are spectacular, but whose lowlight reels have been uncovered by AI… at least until the point where every fan has access to a sporting analysis AI.

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