Rugby-Fiji appoint Byrne to build on World Cup gains

  • Rugby
  • Wednesday, 17 Apr 2024

(Reuters) - Fiji have appointed Mick Byrne as head coach as they look to shore up a place among the global elite following their run to the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals in France.

Australian Byrne already works with many of Fiji's top internationals as the coach of Super Rugby Pacific side Fijian Drua and will juggle both roles ahead of a July test against World Cup finalists New Zealand in the United States.

The Pacific islanders reached their first World Cup quarter-final since 2007 under Simon Raiwalui, who stood down after the tournament to take up a development role with global governing body World Rugby.

Fiji hope to be in the top tier of international rugby when World Rugby's new biennial tournament kicks off in 2026.

Along with the traditional "Tier One" sides from the Six Nations and southern hemisphere Rugby Championship, the top division will also feature two other teams and Fiji are determined to be among them.

"The importance of that opportunity to Fiji Rugby, the Fiji government, and all Fijians, is astronomical," the Fiji Rugby Union said in a statement.

"It guarantees engaging in a high-level competition, and potentially hosting five-six test matches against Tier 1 nations each year between 2026 and 2030."

A former top flight Australia Rules footballer, Byrne helped the All Blacks win back-to-back World Cups in 2011-2015 as skills coach before taking the same role with Australia under former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika.

Byrne has been Fijian Drua coach since the team joined Super Rugby in 2022.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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