Fiji confirm ex-All Blacks coach as World Cup hero Simon Raiwalui’s replacement

Jared Wright
Former Fiji coach Simon Raiwalui and his successor Mick Byrne.

Former Fiji coach Simon Raiwalui and his successor Mick Byrne.

The Fijian Rugby Union have announced that a former All Blacks coach will replace Simon Raiwalui as head coach of the Flying Fijians.

Mick Byrne was the All Blacks’ skills coach between 2005 and 2015 and performed the same role with Australia from 2016 to 2020.

In 2021, he was named as the Fijian Drua’s head coach, and after a successful stint in Super Rugby Pacific, he now takes up the role with the Test team.

New Fiji head coach

The Fijian Rugby Union confirmed the appointment on Tuesday after an “extensive and rigorous selection and negotiation process,” and Byrne has since been granted a long-term work permit.

The statement added: “Fiji Rugby is delighted to have a coach of Mick’s calibre who was part of three Rugby World Cup-winning teams. Mick also brings a deep understanding and love for Fijian rugby proven by the progress and achievements of the Swire Shipping Fijian Drua.

Mick joins Fiji Rugby with the blessings of the Drua management and will complete this Super Rugby Pacific season with the Swire Shipping Fijian Drua while overseeing the FIJI Water Flying Fijians’ preparations for the Barbarians, All Blacks Test, July Tests, and the end of the year European tour.”

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Byrne replaces former head coach Raiwalui, who took charge of the national team in 2023 following the resignation of Vern Cotter ahead of the Rugby World Cup.

Raiwalui led Fiji to victories over Australia and Georgia in the pool stages of the World Cup but lost to Wales and Portugal.

However, that was enough to secure Fiji a spot in the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup, their first play-off match since 2007 and third overall.

Fiji rallied from 14 points down to draw level at 24-24 against England in the quarter-final but would ultimately lose 30-24. For his efforts, Raiwalui was nominated for World Rugby Coach of the Year – which Andy Farrell would win.

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World Rugby involved in Mick Byrne’s appointment

Now, in his role as World Rugby high performance pathways and player development manager, Raiwalui was involved in the selection process for Fiji’s head coach and selecting Byrne.

“In a meeting convened in Suva between World Rugby representatives Nigel Cass and Simon Raiwalui, Hon Siromi Turaga as Minister for Justice, Hon Jese Saukuru as Minister for Youth and Sports, Fiji Rugby represented by the Board of Trustees and ONOC representative Cathy Wong, it was resolved that it is in the best interests of Fiji Rugby, that Mick Byrne be the head coach of the FIJI Water Flying Fijians,” the Fijian Rugby Union statement added.

“World Rugby clarified that the FIJI Water Flying Fijians’ performance and ranking at the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France, has put Fiji in strong position to be part of the Nations Championship competition commencing 2026 through to 2030. It would be detrimental to Fiji’s participation in the Nations Championship, in the 2024 Olympics, in the Super Rugby Pacific, the 2027 Rugby World Cup and the rest of the HSBC SVNS Series in Singapore and beyond, if the best qualified and proven coaches, are not appointed to Fiji’s high-performance national teams.”

Byrne brings a wealth of international experience to the role having coached at Test level with Scotland, Japan, the Wallabies and the All Blacks.

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