The Fiji Rugby Union has been begun preparations for the 2017 National Rugby Championship (NRC) which kicks off on Saturday, 2 September in Canberra, Australia.
The 2017 NRC is the fourth season of Australia’s National Rugby Championship and involves nine professional rugby union teams, one more than the previous year, with eight teams from Australia and one team from Fiji.
The fixtures for the tournament were released today by the Australian Rugby Union and FRU CEO, Mr John O’Connor says that for Fiji to be able to play in the NRC is a huge stepping stone and a historic milestone and development for the Union. I wish to acknowledge the Board in their decisions to undertake reforms in the Fiji Rugby Union to improve governance, leadership and financial management which have been viewed positively by the World Rugby and the ARU leading to our inclusion in the competition.
“It is a major step and achievement for Fiji to have a team playing in this competition and credit must go to the ARU who, along with New Zealand, are often criticised for drawing players from the Pacific Islands but not giving much back in return. We are very thankful to both the ARU and to World Rugby for their support.”
“It is an exciting opportunity for Fiji Rugby. It creates a bridge for our best young talent between our domestic competition and a professional, international competition, which has been a gaping hole in our competition and player development pathway. We have a huge pool of talent and our goal is to be competitive from Game 1. We respect the NRC as a competition and that it will be a challenge for us, but it’s one we want, need, and will embrace”
“Selection into this team ensures that the locally based players are on the pathway towards becoming a World Class player in terms of the proper training programs and personal development that will benefit FRU’s National Rugby Teams which is our mission.
“Previously to step up from Skipper Cup to a Flying Fijian has been too great and players have struggled to make the transition. This competition will enable our local players to train and play with far greater intensity over a 10 -12 week period that will mean players will be far more prepared to contribute on the November Tour if selected
“It’s another key step in proving our credentials to host big matches on the international stage and to showcase the enormous following our game has in Fiji”
The NRC season kicks off with Canberra Vikings and Queensland Country doing battle at Viking Park, Canberra. Hours later, Fiji will play their historic first NRC match against two-time Premiers, Brisbane City at Ballymore in Brisbane. The next day, 2016 runners-up, NSW Country Eagles will take on the Western Sydney Rams at TG Milner Oval, before the reigning champions, Perth Spirit host Melbourne Rising at McGillivray Oval.
Other regional locations set for NRC action in 2017 include Tamworth (NSW), Orange (NSW), Armidale (NSW), Goulburn (NSW) and Ipswich (QLD).
Fiji will host their first match in Round 3, with the island nation set to converge on Lawaqa Park in the Rugby-mad city of Sigatoka, to clash with NSW Country Eagles.
A total of four home games will be played in Fiji with Churchill Park in Lautoka, Lawaqa Park in Sigitoka and ANZ Stadium set to host our team
The Pasifika Round will return in 2017 on the weekend of the 7/8 October (Round 6), where all teams will pay tribute to the significant role that Pasifika communities play in Australian rugby. The showpiece match of this round will undoubtedly be the Western Sydney Rams and Fiji game at Concord, which will follow matches between the Australian v NZ Schoolboys, and Australian Barbarians v Fiji Schoolboys at the same venue.
Following last year’s popular format, most matches will be played at 1.00pm AEST or 3.00pm AEST on Saturdays and Sundays again in 2017, making NRC fixtures the perfect weekend outing for family and friends.
The fast-paced, competitive and high-scoring encounters synonymous with the competition are set to continue, following a 2016 season where an average of 9.7 tries were scored per match.
“The Fiji Team will go into this competition with the Fijian passion and flair that we are well known for all over the world. We intend to make an impact and stamp our mark in this competition and we will leave no stones unturned in our preparations” Mr O’Connor said.
Details of the Fiji team to play in the 2017 NRC, including the Team name, playing strip and logo will be released by the FRU in coming weeks.