Mastermind behind Fiji’s incredible Rugby World Cup run gets surprising new job

Colin Newboult
Fiji head coach Simon Raiwalui holding a ball at the Rugby World Cup.

Fiji head coach Simon Raiwalui holding a ball at the Rugby World Cup.

Simon Raiwalui has joined World Rugby after leaving his role with Fiji following the conclusion of the Rugby World Cup.

The 49-year-old took on the role of general manager high-performance for the Flying Fijians in 2020 before becoming interim head coach after Vern Cotter’s departure.

Raiwalui led the Pacific Islanders to a first-ever victory over England and then guided them to the quarter-finals of the World Cup.

Impressive campaign

On their way, they ran Wales close before beating Australia 22-15, which was ultimately decisive in them reaching the last-eight.

In the knockout stages, they faced Steve Borthwick’s Red Rose side and gave them a mighty scare, but the Englishmen ultimately prevailed 30-24.

Raiwalui officially completed his stint with Fiji last week and will now take up a similar high performance position with the sport’s governing body.

“I am joining World Rugby as the manager of high performance,” he said at the Fiji Prime Minister’s International Business Awards.

“It is something that I am really invested in, the development and pathways of rugby, so I will be working worldwide. But like I have mentioned before hopefully one day I will be back in Fiji.

“Coaching the Flying Fijians is memorable. There are some interesting characters.

“The proudest moment for me was to see them grow every day. As a team, as individuals, we wanted them to express themselves, we didn’t want them to be limited.

“So, like I said from the start. Who are we? We are the Flying Fijians.

“Who we want to be? We want to represent Fiji and make every Fijian proud.”

Change in tact for World Rugby?

It is an interesting appointment by World Rugby, especially following the recent ‘Nations Championship’ announcement, which will on the face of it hamper the development of tier two nations.

Raiwalui has been an outspoken advocate for the emerging international teams and stated during the World Cup that he wanted change.

“I would take more matches over resources,” he said after Fiji beat the Wallabies. “You’ve seen what these boys can do when they get competition.”

This move by the governing body hopefully signals that they will be doing more to help the Pacific Island sides, as well as the likes of Portugal, Uruguay and Chile, who impressed at the global tournament.

“This is fantastic, hugely exciting, encouraging news for the global game,” popular analyst Squidge Rugby wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“I’m not sure there’s anyone better-qualified and very few more passionate when it comes to raising performance and improving pathways in smaller rugby nations out there at the minute than Simon Raiwalui.”

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