September 28, 2011

Stuff NZ: Trouble for govt following Fiji's poor showing

Last updated 10:32 28/09/2011

Mutiny is threatening in the ranks of the military controlled Fiji Rugby Union (FRU) with a navy commander demanding the union's army head make key changes now or go.

In the wake of a 27-7 thumping by Samoa in Auckland last week in the Rugby World Cup, Fiji has slipped heavily in rugby ranks, will now have to pre-qualify in the next World Cup and fears a drop in International Rugby Board (IRB) funding.

Coup leader Voreqe Bainimarama earlier this year engineered a take-over of the FRU by requiring them to follow regime instructions or not receive state funding to get to the cup of F$3 million (NZ$2 million).

He tried to install his brother-in-law and Suva Rugby Union head, Commander Francis Kean, as head of the FRU.

Kean's 2007 conviction for manslaughter at the wedding of Bainimarama's daughter kept him out of the FRU job which instead it went to the Army's Land Force head Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga.

Kean - who heads the navy and the Public Works Department - today says Tikoitoga and the FRU board installed by Bainimarama should be blamed for the weekend defeat.

He said he had been calling for changes that had not been made.

"No comment on Fiji's performance. Let's give our boys a chance against Wales, who knows nothing is impossible if they play their hearts out on the day," he told the Fiji Sun.

"However, had the FRU board taken the time to deliberate on the 25 plus resolutions and motions that Suva Rugby Union had submitted to be discussed at the AGM in Sigatoka this year we would not be complaining now."

Recommendations included replacing head coach Samu Domoni with former coach Ilivasi Tabua and making wholesale changes within the FRU and its High Performance Unit.

He said Suva was hopeful that the FRU will have the guts to make the changes now and put in place the right people and programme leading up to the 2015 RWC.

Yesterday Tikoitoga said changes would be made once the team returns home.

The defeat is having political implications in Fiji where martial law remains in place and media censorship prevents any criticism of Bainimarama appearing in public.

But with the connection between the regime and the union, censors appear to have let words like "embarrassing", "mediocre" and "shameful" be published.

The Fiji team is now at its worst ever ranking since the inception of rugby union and face a funding review from the International Rugby Board.

Fiji is now ranked 16th behind Samoa on 10th and Tonga 13th in the Pacific Island countries with the World Cup being used as a selection platform for the next round of strategic funding for Tier Two nations.

State controlled Fiji Broadcasting this morning said the RWC performance means they will get less money from the IRB.

Over the last three years it received F$2.5 million but had not used it properly and its national side had no training grounds of its own.

The broadcaster contrasted Fiji's inaction with that of the Samoa where its union had used IRB funding to create four training pitches, accommodation for up to 90 people and a rehab centre.

- Stuff

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