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Flying Fijians make four-man shortlist for Simon Raiwalui successor

By Chris Jones
Fiji's head coach Simon Raiwalui leads warm up prior to the France 2023 Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Wales and Fiji at Stade de Bordeaux in Bordeaux, south-western France on September 10, 2023. (Photo by ROMAIN PERROCHEAU / AFP) (Photo by ROMAIN PERROCHEAU/AFP via Getty Images)

Head coach of the Fijian Drua Mick Byrne is one of four applicants hoping to replace Simon Raiwalui and take charge of the Flying Fijians.

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The popular Raiwalui stood down as head coach after the World Cup in France and now has a key role with World Rugby. Fiji Rugby Union High Performance Unit general manager Barrie-Jon Mather has since confirmed the four-man shortlist, telling the Fiji Sun: “We have got two to interview on Thursday (today) and two on Friday.

“Then we will have one or maybe two, for the second round of interviews; if they stand out then bring them into the islands to see the culture and make connections with the unions, Drua, and players so we can check how they are.”

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The Drua confirmed Byrne was in the frame in a statement which said: “No further comments on this issue, as it’s only fair to allow Fiji Rugby Union due to process to take its course.”

The second round of interviews will be held in mid-February and Mather revealed an understanding the Fijian culture was one of the key things they are looking for. “International experience will be the key thing; we’d like somebody who knows what the environment is like and how to be successful. Simon (Raiwalui) showed the team is ready to take the next step in the World Cup.

“We need somebody who knows what it’s like to be in the semifinals or what it takes to get there. Second most important thing is to be culturally fit; how they engage, if it’s a Fijian person then great, if someone from the North Island then they need to be aware of how to engage with the Fijian culture.”

Mather is excited about the coming international programmes for the men’s and women’s 15s saying: “The women will be playing more Test matches than before, with some really good oppositions and will play a number of games in Fiji.

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“We will also have four games for the Flying Fijians in the Northern Hemisphere in the November window. It is really an exciting 15s programme.”

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