Friday, 9 May 2014

Fiji appoint John McKee as new head coach


Some background on the new Fiji head coach John McKee, an New Zealander who will take the role of Fiji head coach following the sacking of Inoke Male last January.

Following the IRB withdrawing funding to the FRU (Fiji Rugby Union), citing failures to implement recommended measures to reform the state of administration and governance of the Union, it led to the impromptu sacking in January of the XV's head coach Inoke Male for a money saving move. It was rather unfortunate for Male who had a reasonably satisfactory 2013, which included winning the Pacific Nations Cup in June, and in November Fiji were rather unfortunate not to have picked up an away win over Italy in a game that resulted in an official complaint at the officiating.

The incoming coach will be Australian John McKee, who is promoted to the role less than 6 months after being appointed in the role of General Manager for High Performance for Fiji rugby. He was reportedly selected out of 24 candidates to apply.

Fiji head coaches since 1996
McKee will have his first game in charge with a rematch of November's game against Italy but with Fiji now on home ground. Then after games with Tonga and Samoa, he will then lead them through their World Cup qualification campaign, which will consist of one match with the Cook Islands who they should trounce with little difficulty.

Coaching a Pacific Island side is never the easiest task, with very limited resources and word of political interference, Fiji have seen their past three foreign coaches Wayne Pivac, Mac McCallion and Greg Smith all resign and get frustrated at the job. Other recent coaches such as Inoke Male and Ilivasi Tabua also left the job for unorthodox reasons. Brad Johnstone remains the only Fiji coach ever to have seen over 20 matches.

The new coach McKee has a vast amount of experience of different countries and rugby cultures, he's spent most of his career in Australia, but also spent time in France (assistant to Tim Lane at Montferrand 2000-02), Ireland (assistant to Michael Bradley at Connacht 2002-05), England (assistant at Cornish Pirates 2005-06) and also worked with the Pacific Islanders in 2008 and Tonga at the last World Cup in advisory roles. His last head coach role was with the Central Coast Rays in the ill fated Australian Rugby Championship in 2007.

Brett Gosper has this week said that an end to the IRB's funding suspension is near following "significant strides towards putting their house in order", hopefully for McKee his first season in charge won't have been hindered by the effects of the funding being suspended.

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