Former Ireland captain Rory Best has been announced as an assistant coach for Fiji’s November internationals.
Best has never coached with an international side before, but he has acted as a high performance skills coach with Major League Rugby side Seattle Seawolves, while he has also acted as a mentor for Ulster on occasion before.
Fiji announced their playing squad and coaching staff for their test matches against Spain, Wales and Georgia next month, and explained that only players and coaches based in the northern hemisphere have been included.
This means that Fiji head coach Vern Cotter will not be present, due to travel complications created by the ongoing pandemic.
Travel restrictions have forced Fiji into appointing a new coaching staff.
“We could have made arrangements for management and players to travel to for the Northern tour but we were not able to guarantee their return with the unavailability of MIQ spots in Australia and New Zealand,” FRU CEO John O’Connor said.
“We could not take the risk of players and staff being stuck in the Northern Hemisphere in 2022 as such we made the decision not to use anyone from the Southern Hemisphere for the tour.
“Since we are not engaging our Coaches, Management and players from the Southern Hemisphere, we have had no option but to look at alternative arrangements in the Northern Hemisphere.
“As such Olympic Gold medal winning and outgoing Fijian Sevens Coach Gareth Baber has been given the responsibility to lead the pack as Head Coach, former Scottish and current Edinburgh attack coach Duncan Hodge will be in charge of the backs.
“High Performance Skills Coach of the Seattle Seawolves and former Irish hooker Rory Best will look after the forwards and former Springboks and Scotland Coach Richie Gray who was with Flying Fijians during the Autumn Nations Cup last year will oversee the ruck and contact area.”
Flying Fijians Coaching, Management and Squad announcement📢📢.
✔ No Coaches and players are traveling from Southern Hemisphere.
✔ Gareth Baber will be the Head Coach
Read ⬇️⬇️⬇️ to find more.https://t.co/j8c7kwQQsk
— Fiji Rugby Union (@fijirugby) October 19, 2021
Rory Best will continue his coaching development with Fiji.
While it appears that Best’s appointment as Fiji’s forwards coach will be a short-term role, it is the biggest job the former Ireland and Ulster captain has taken on in his burgeoning coaching career.
Best and his fellow coaches will have little time to become acquainted with one another, as Fiji play their first test of the autumn against Spain on November 7th in Madrid.
While the flying Fijians will be without some of their big stars for the three months, such as the injured Semi Radardra, Best will be coaching world class players like Josua Tuisova and Levani Botia, who plays under Ronan O’Gara at La Rochelle.