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King: 'Cotter the perfect fit'

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'France 2023 could be a real watershed moment for Fijian rugby'

Vern Cotter’s former right-hand man at Clermont and Montpellier believes the New Zealander is the perfect fit for Fiji and will make them title contenders at the 2023 World Cup in France.

Cotter will take over from John McKee as Fiji’s head coach when his Montpellier contract ends in July, and the former Scotland coach will then attempt to build on the brilliant rugby the islanders produced against Australia at the 2019 World Cup.

They led the Wallabies until the last 20 minutes before falling away, and they then allowed inconsistency to shape the rest of their campaign with losses to Wales and most surprisingly Uruguay.

Former Wasps and England out-half Alex King played under Cotter at Clermont before assuming the backs coaching role which he continued at Montpellier prior to moving to Brive this season. He has seen at close hand what effect Cotter can have on players and his ability to create a winning team.

With so many Fijian players operating in France, Cotter knows exactly what challenges he faces and King is confident that over the next three years his old boss will create a team that the rest of the sport will fear at the 2023 World Cup.

(Continue reading below…)

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King told RugbyPass: “France 2023 could be a real watershed moment for Fijian rugby. It is a brilliant appointment for Fiji because Vern is the ideal man to use the undoubted talent they have and also bring the consistency of performance and preparation that they will need. 

“He is very organised and will be working with some of the most incredible rugby players on the planet. With Vern’s experience and the way he forms teams, it is a great match. Everywhere Vern has been he has improved the environment, the rugby and he has worked with a lot of Fijian players over the 20 years he has been coaching and they respond to his methods.”

Despite impressing in the pool defeat by Australia in Japan, Fiji failed in their aim of making the last eight. King expects that disappointment to now fuel their challenge in France. He explained: “Fiji underperformed at the World Cup in Japan, but every tier one nation will fear Fiji being in their pool in France in 2023. 

“The majority of Fiji’s players are in French rugby already and it won’t be too difficult to perform because they will be around family and friends who are with them in France. Vern will get them fit, well organised and with a real desire to put right what happened in Japan.

“Fiji have the best back in the world in Semi Radradra and arguably the best back row forward in Peceli Yato, and Vern will unearth some more gems in the next three years. Vern understands the Fijian culture and mentality and he will want to harness all the positive aspects. 

“He will bring organisation to the forward pack and it is really exciting for Fiji to have him in charge and to be able to plot the course to the World Cup. The Fijian players work incredibly hard at their clubs and are fitter than they have ever been. It will be interesting to see if they get Scotland in their pool in 2023!”

King is working with Brive alongside ex-Ireland lock Jeremy Davidson and he has invited French neighbours around to watch England’s opening Six Nations match with France on Sunday. 

He is intrigued to see how Shaun Edwards, his former coach at Wasps, can influence the French defence in his new role. “I think his French accent will be a touch of the Rodney Trotters!”

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'France 2023 could be a real watershed moment for Fijian rugby'
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