FORMER Fiji rugby star Seremaia Bai has questioned the Fiji Rugby Union's role in the development of rugby at the grassroots level saying they have failed to strengthen the foundations of rugby in Fiji.
Bai, 34, who was speaking about his personal experiences, said he had no assistance from FRU when he had started playing back in his young days.
"FRU seems to be concentrating on getting a solid team but at the end of the day failing to carry out its core function of ensuring that the game has a continuity and flow from the grassroots level onwards," said the Castres club player.
"How often do we see the FRU development unit go down to the outer islands and individual schools to do training clinics and promote the game to the people in communities around the country on a daily basis?
"The whole world knows that we are born rugby players and that it is something innate with every Fijian child but in terms of how this talent is developed is something that FRU is lagging."
Bai, who has 43 Test caps for Fiji after making his debut in 2000, said money should be the least of Fiji's woes as we could use the resources we have to at least conduct coaching clinics and other little exercises to keep the flame and hope in our young ones burning.
"In France and many other overseas countries for instance, rugby is developed from the earliest level as part of any child's education," said Bai.
"However in Fiji we see bright young stars rise up within the Deans competition level and when the talent has to be further developed at a stage when it matters after secondary level of education we often turn back and ask what happened to that star at the Deans competition."
Bai added: "This is one of the reasons that we have old players in our sevens and fifteens teams who begin to exhibit their true potentials at an average age of 27 years and onwards while overseas teams often field teams of younger players."
He said there needed to be an order to the development of players and this order needed to start from the earliest stages of any player's life.
Responding to the views aired by Bai, FRU development manager Sale Sorovaki said FRU was doing what it could in enabling rugby to reach out to the grassroots.
"The FRU is doing its best to reach out to the remote areas and that includes schools," said Sorovaki.
"The onus is on coaches, referees to teach what is being taught to them.
"We are going to remote areas when we can, we had been to Rotuma and the Lau group including Kadavu.
"I believe we have covered the whole of Fiji. Maintaining this relationship is important for rugby development," he said.
Sorovaki said in terms of developing the game at a young age, the Kaji program was in place for primary schools to compete in.
"Our job is to educate coaches, in this case teachers, on all aspects of rugby where safety is paramount," he said.
"We have 714 primary schools and teachers move from school to school every year and all we can do is educate the teachers."