SECURING rugby contracts in Japan may pay well but does not help nurture Fijian talents.
That's the word from former Fiji rugby captain Greg Smith, who is coaching two clubs in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Smith, the former Chiefs livewire hooker with 44 Test caps for Fiji under his belt, said the level of competition was not competitive enough to gauge players' capabilities and bring out their best during pressure time when dealing with international-class competition.
Japan offers one of the best rugby pays in the world. They offer really good money to players and they look after the welfare of contracted players well. But the level of competition here is not that competitive, said Smith, who has been coaching Tokyo Gas and Teikyo Club for the past two years.
He said with so many upcoming young players in Fiji, rugby advisers at home should guide them well on which contracts to secure to further broaden their rugby knowledge.
Young stars such as Metuisela Talebula, Waisea Nayacalevu and up-and-coming secondary school players should make wise decisions on which contracts to sign, he added.
From my perspective, I think it is good for young players to play Super Rugby, NPC or in Europe because the competition there is very good. It helps nurture players to be at their best, Smith said.
Here in Japan, I am even having a difficult time trying to teach players the basics of the game. Japanese are still learning, so young Fijian players that impress Japanese scouts should think twice before making a decision.
Money is not all that matters. They should go to Europe, play Super Rugby or NPC while they are still in their prime. That is what will increase their value, he said.
If they are nearing the end of their career and move to Japan, they will secure a much better deal compared to the one offered to them in the first place.
Fijian players such as Ifereimi Rawaqa, Api Naikatini, William Ryder and Kele Leawere are some of those who have spent a part of their playing career in Japan.
Former All Blacks speedster Rico Gear also plays in Japan at the age of 34.