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Michael Byrne Appointed as New Head Coach for the FIJI Water Flying Fijians

The Fiji Rugby Football Union Trust Board (Fiji Rugby Union) is pleased to confirm that Michael Gerard Byrne (Mick) has accepted his appointment to the position of Head Coach FIJI Water Flying Fijians.

Following an extensive and rigorous selection and negotiation process, Fiji Rugby resolved to appoint Mick, whose formal application for a long-term work permit was granted by the Department for Immigration yesterday April 15, 2024.

Mick is the current Head Coach of the Swire Shipping Fijian Drua and brings a wealth of international experience to the role, coaching at Test match level with Scotland, Japan, the Wallabies and the All Blacks.

Fiji Rugby is delighted to have a coach of Mick’s caliber who was part of 3 Rugby World Cup winning teams. Mick also brings a deep understanding and love for Fijian rugby proven by the progress and achievements of the Swire Shipping Fijian Drua. Mick joins Fiji Rugby with the blessings of the Drua Management and will complete this Super Rugby Pacific season with the Swire Shipping Fijian Drua while overseeing the FIJI Water Flying Fijians’ preparations for the Barbarians, All Blacks test, July tests, and the end of the year European Tour.

The acceptance, and issuance of a long-term Fiji Work Permit, to Mick by the Department of Immigration, was a prerequisite to this announcement as Fiji Rugby saw it imperative and necessary, to provide ample opportunity for Mick to obtain independent legal advice. It is a crucial step in complying with the immigration laws of Fiji and equally aligning with World Rugby’s selection criteria, guided by an Agreement executed between World Rugby, the Fiji Government, Fiji Rugby and ONOC in May 2023.

In a meeting convened in Suva between World Rugby representatives Nigel Cass and Simon Raiwalui, Hon Siromi Turaga as Minister for Justice, Hon Jese Saukuru as Minister for Youth and Sports, Fiji Rugby represented by the Board of Trustees and ONOC representative Cathy Wong, it was resolved that it is in the best interests of Fiji Rugby, that Mick Byrne be the Head Coach of the FIJI Water Flying Fijians.

World Rugby clarified that the FIJI Water Flying Fijians’ performance and ranking at the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France, has put Fiji in strong position to be part of the Nations Championship competition commencing 2026 through to 2030. It would be detrimental to Fiji’s participation in the Nations Championship, in the 2024 Olympics, in the Super Rugby Pacific, the 2027 Rugby World Cup and the rest of the HSBC SVNS Series in Singapore and beyond, if the best qualified and proven coaches, are not appointed to Fiji’s high-performance national teams.

The plan for Fiji’s participation, is to be included in a 12-team competition of Tier 1 nations made up of the Six Nations, the SANZAR teams, Japan, and Fiji. The importance of that opportunity to Fiji Rugby, the Fiji Government, and all Fijians, is astronomical. It guarantees engaging in a high-level competition, and potentially hosting 5-6 test matches against Tier 1 Nations each year between 2026 and 2030.

There exists a massive opportunity for further investment in Fiji’s High-Performance Unit and its programmes by World Rugby, that will enable Fiji to prepare and be part of the Nations Championship. However, World Rugby emphasised that Fiji playing Tier 1 nations on a regular basis as opposed to playing Tier 2 nations will only be a reality if the investment in Fiji Rugby’s High-Performance by World Rugby, is protected through the appointment of the best coaches to coach Fiji’s national teams through a robust, fair, transparent, and independent process.

Additionally, discussions revolved around the development of all Fijian coaches for international roles, both in the XVs and 7s environments. The Board of Trustees of Fiji Rugby and World Rugby have committed to support a coach development program aimed at increasing the pool of possible Fijian-based coaches with the ability to step into such roles, and to expose these coaches to different opportunities, either within Fiji through education and development, or overseas with other High-Performance unions and clubs.

Of Fiji Rugby’s total income in 2023, corporate sponsorships and sundry made up 50%, World Rugby grant 32% and Fiji Government 18%.

Mick will be in Suva, Fiji on Thursday April 18, 2024 to address the media, to answer questions, highlight his plans and reveal his team that will coach the FIJI Water Flying Fijians for the next Rugby World Cup cycle.

© Fiji Rugby 2024