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Fiji jersey set to bear 'Vaccinate' message - but there's a twist

By Sam Smith
Fiji team line up. All Blacks v Fiji, Steinlager Series, international rugby union test match. Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand. Saturday 10 July 2021. © Copyright Photo: Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.nz

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Ahead of their second test against the All Blacks this Saturday in Hamilton, Fiji have announced that they will wear jerseys supporting COVID-19 vaccinations in the country.

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Last week, controversy emerged late before the first test in Dunedin with some players in Vern Cotter’s side requesting not to wear the jerseys which bear the words ‘Vaccinate Fiji’.

Instead the team opted for ‘clean’ jerseys, eventually succumbing to a hard-fought 57-23 loss.

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John Kirwan on why Fiji and Japan must be added to the Rugby Championship immediately.

Issues as to consultation were raised by head coach Vern Cotter, but following productive discussions with the players this week Fiji Rugby chief executive John O’Connor, revealed to Stuff yesterday that the team would indeed wear the sponsored jerseys for the second test.

“We have listened to the concerns raised by some members of the squad regarding the message and the perspective that individuals have different choices when it comes to vaccination,” said O’Connor. “In turn, we explained Fiji Rugby Union’s position and support for the vaccination programme in Fiji, which will help save lives and assist our health authorities in the fight against the COVID-19 outbreak.”

O’Connor further explained that the squad had decided to include an additional message on the jersey reading ‘It’s your choice’.

Fiji has suffered gravely under COVID-19 with Stuff reporting that the country has to date, experienced some 58 deaths, with close to 10,000 active cases in isolation.

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In relation to the team’s performance on the field, O’Connor was buoyant ahead of the second test, after a competitive performance from the Flying Fijians saw them trouble the All Blacks at the breakdown and the set piece in last week’s clash.

Fiji’s European-based contingent brought real quality to the contest, with the side recording one of their best ever results in a test match against the All Blacks.

Calls this week have also emerged, suggesting that Fiji’s performance might warrant inclusion to The Rugby Championship in order to gain increased experience against tier-one opposition and fast-track their development.

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Fiji play the All Blacks in the second test of the Steinlager Series on Saturday 17 July.

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Fiji jersey set to bear 'Vaccinate' message - but there's a twist

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