Vodafone Fiji Under 20’s World Rugby Trophy winning team will not be sitting satisfied with the medals around their neck as they return to their homes across the island today.
For the staff and players it’s not enough to be ‘best of the rest’, they want to be ‘best of the best’.
Fresh off the plane from Romania, where the team battered Samoa in the final to earn their place in the World Rugby Under 20’s Championship next June, Head Coach Koli Sewabu says it’s already time to focus and plan for next year’s tournament.
“It was great to achieve the goal we set when we went to Romania, but we are meeting tomorrow as a management, to start the next phase of preparations because June is not very far away, and we dont want to just participate, we want to be a serious contender.” he said.
Speaking to the team at Nadi airport on Wednesday, Fiji Rugby Union CEO John O’Connor echoed the sentiment of Sewabu adding that it is a critical time for the FRU to nurture the athletes and keep them close to Fiji and the high performance programme.
“We are really proud of the boys’ achievements and congratulate the players and the management on doing their jobs to win their place into the Under 20 World Championship.” he said.
“But now the bar is set higher again and we have to look after these young players to make sure they stay in Fiji and are striving hard to represent the White Jersey next year and into the future.”
There is no doubt the performance by the Vodafone Fiji Under 20s has set tongues wagging across the world about the exciting fresh talent on the rise, with Coach Sewabu fielding several calls from colleagues in New Zealand and Australia.
“My phone has been ringing asking about my players, which is a testament to their performances in Romania.”
“Our senior players showed some real leadership and talent, with Filimoni Botitu being named Player of the Tournament, as well as the other boys really stepping up in each game.”
“You could see the benefit of their time with the Warriors programme and also playing regularly at Skipper Cup level.”
However with many of the players in the trophy winning side ineligible for next year’s World Championship, the depth and strength of the FRU Academy programme will play a big role in fielding a competitive team for Fiji.
“We need to get a clear picture of who is eligible to play in the tournament next year, so that we can identify the positions and areas we need to fill.
“We will be working hard to raise up the players in the Academy programme or identify talent that can keep the momentum and manage the challenge next year.”
“There will be plenty of work to do for the boys, but what is pleasing is that the development programme from Under 16, Under 18 and the Academy is already bridging the gap between school and this level, and we are reaping the rewards from Under 20s, through to Drua, Warriors and beyond.”