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Fiji swoop for dual code international Barrie-Jon Mather

By Chris Jones
Barrie-Jon Mather of England in action during training for England's 1999 Five Nations campaign at Twickenham Rugby Ground in Twickenham, England. Mandatory Credit: David Rogers /Allsport

Barrie-Jon Mather, who played rugby union for England and rugby league for Great Britain, has the job of ensuring the Flying Fijians build on their 2023 Rugby World Cup success by helping to fill the void created by the departure of Simon Raiwalui, the head coach.

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Interviews are currently taking place to find a replacement for Raiwalui who is now working for World Rugby with Mather appointed as Fiji rugby’s new High-Performance Unit (HPU) general manager, alongside Alana Thomas and former Flying Fijians hooker Bill Gadolo .

Mather told the Fiji Times: “I am excited to work with all the great guys here and build on some of the success the Flying Fijians and Fijiana had recently. What we really want is to repeat the success we’ve had the last few months and build on the really good work that Simon and the rest of the team started so that this is not a one-off but ultimately beating England or Australia should become an expectation from the fans and players most importantly.

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“That’s the level that they need to be playing week-in and week-out so if we can help with the systems and policy in place then that’s what we are here for.”

Mather, formerly the  high performance  director at the NSW Institute of Sport, played once for the England rugby union team under Clive Woodward, ending up on the losing side when chasing a Grand Slam title when England were beaten by Wales at Wembley in 1999 with Scott Gibbs scoring a famous try.

Mather was playing for Sale when capped by Woodward and wants to ensure Fiji continue to make significant strides, aided by the success of the Fijian Drua in Super Rugby Pacific and the Fijiana team. “I want to go around to meet the unions, the stakeholders and try to get a sense of where Fiji Rugby is at nationally, and then we’ll go forward from there.

“There’s a little more work we’ve got to do in terms of the gyms and some of the facilities access for the Unions to make sure that they get what they need as well. HPU shouldn’t be a stand-alone unit, it needs to work with the Unions, identify the players and coaches so that we can have a more Fijian flavour to the Union as well.

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“I always looked out for the flair and passion for the game that they had but I think this last 18 months with the involvement in Super Rugby and Super W, there’s been a real steel to them, and time has worked wonders with their coaches and players. They have progressed and it’s impressive to see.”

Mather played rugby league for Wigan and Castleford but started as a union player and played in the same England schools side as Matt Dawson and Richard Hill who went on to win the 2003 World Cup.

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Jon 23 hours ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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