PRPW calls for even game time at RWC

Litia Naiqato gets ready to receive a pass during the Fiji Airways Fijiana team training session at Buckhurst Grounds in Suva on Wednesday, September 12, 2018. Picture: JONACANI LALAKOBAU/FILE

THE Fiji Rugby Union has been urged to call for fairness on the allocation of recovery days from World Rugby for the Fiji Airways Flying Fijians in next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.

The call came from Pacific Rugby Players Welfare (PRPW) group head Daniel Leo yesterday.

The former Samoa international said the FRU needed to raise its voice against the span of each game for the Flying Fijians compared with some tier one teams.

Fiji plays Australia in its first pool game on Saturday, September 21 and Uruguay three days later. Australia, after playing Fiji will rest for six days before playing Wales on Sunday, September 29. Leo said this was not fair.

“Fiji may have been dealt a killer blow to their 2019 Rugby World Cup hopes before even the kick-off of their first match with a tournament schedule that gives them two days less recovery time than the tier one unions of Australia and Wales,” Leo said.

“That’s favouritism. There’s no other way to describe this, so let’s call it like it is, and hold this dirty laundry up for everyone to see.”

“Samoa is grouped with tier one unions Scotland and Ireland, but that island nation only has 18 days to complete its four matches while the two tier one sides have 21 days,” he said.

Leo said Fiji had to play four matches in 18 days, starting on September 21 against Australia and finishing against Wales on October 9.

He claimed the Wallabies and Wales had 20 days to play the same number of matches.

He supported his queries with his experience as a two-time RWC player stating that the profound impact of turnarounds and less time to recover could have an impact on a player’s body.

Leo is keen to know why the FRU didn’t take any action regarding the fixtures when the draw was confirmed last year.

Fiji Rugby Union chief executive officer John O’Connor when contacted through electronic mail on Wednesday, and yesterday by telephone did not want to comment.

“I suspect the FRU has been completely silent on this schedule issue, but I would be delighted to be proved wrong,” Leo said.

“Rugby fans of Fiji and Samoa have a legitimate expectation that our members will give 100 per cent commitment when representing their national teams, but our members are being given only 80-85 per cent of the recovery time of the teams you are expecting us to beat to qualify for the quarter-finals.

“This is a huge advantage that the unions of Australia, Wales, Scotland and Ireland have given themselves – voting to support one another getting a leg-up over the tier two unions including Fiji and Samoa,’ said Leo in his letter to the FRU.

He also called for a louder Pacific voice to get World Rugby ear.

“The unions of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga have never had direct representation on the council (World Rugby), the executive committee or any of the standing committees that develop policy ideas. It is the ingrained political bias that dates back to colonial days that is producing these lopsided draws.”

A perfect example Leo stressed was the Fiji U20 win in the World Rugby U20 Trophy last week after beating Samoa 58-8 in the final.

“Fiji and Samoa did so well and that was built on our god-given talents, great coaching from coaches such as Koli Sewabu and his team, but also that each side played exactly the same number of matches with the same recovery days in between and that of Romania and Canada — who have seats on the World Rugby Council and were in the same tournament and did not have any easier schedule of matches than anyone else.”

Fiji is pooled with Australia, Uruguay, Georgia and Wales in the 2019 RWC in Japan.

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