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Rory Best to begin international coaching career with Fiji next month


Former Ulster, Ireland, British & Irish Lions captain, Rory Best, is calling on the nation to help him in his challenge to support Cancer Fund for Children

Former Ulster, Ireland, British & Irish Lions captain, Rory Best, is calling on the nation to help him in his challenge to support Cancer Fund for Children

Former Ulster, Ireland, British & Irish Lions captain, Rory Best, is calling on the nation to help him in his challenge to support Cancer Fund for Children

Rory Best will begin his international coaching career with Fiji next month – two years after his playing career ended against the same nation.

The former Ireland and Ulster hooker will form a strong support panel beneath outgoing Sevens’ head coach Gareth Baber, which includes former Scotland internationals Duncan Hodge and Richie Gray who are listed assistants.

Fiji Rugby chief executive John O’Connor said because of the challenges associated with international travel and quarantine restrictions, selectors decided not to include any southern hemisphere-based players for the tour which involves matches against Spain, Wales and Georgia.

Fiji Rugby also has decided that Fiji head coach Vern Cotter and his New Zealand-based assistants will not take part in the tour.

“We were not able to guarantee their return with the unavailability of (managed isolation and quarantine) spots in Australia and New Zealand,” O’Connor said. “We could not take the risk of players and staff being stuck in the northern hemisphere in 2022.”

O’Connor said Baber, who helped the Fiji men’s sevens team defend their Olympic gold medal at Tokyo in late July, became a “natural selection” when a northern hemisphere-based head coach was needed.

Best has remained central to the sport as a pundit since retirement but has admitted that he is challenged by the idea of coaching without being as fully committed as he was in his playing days.

“Sometimes maybe you’re a glutton for punishment,” he told us a few months back.

“Ultimately whatever you do, you want to be successful at and rugby is something that I’ve been reasonably successful at and it’s something I know.

“And I know people talk about a complete career change. But at the same time, I don’t think I exhausted everything within the career that I chose.

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“I think there are potential aspects that I would like to get involved in and like to see if it’s something that I can do. That’s part of the reason why I’m not ready to jump fully in.

“It’s about experiencing different things and seeing can you get the stuff in your head out of your mouth so that someone else can learn from it and it doesn’t matter what environment you do that in. “

Ironically, Best played his final game of rugby at Twickenham against Fiji in November 2019 in a 33-31 victory for the Barbarians.

Best has already landed his first official coaching role in Major League Rugby after taking up a position as a skills coach at the Seattle Seawolves last April.

He has been working alongside one of Ulster's 1999 Heineken Cup winning side Allen Clarke, who has signed up with the club as technical coach.

Best worked remotely with responsibility for current World Rugby trends and playing techniques as well as helping to build elite player skills and capabilities.

After his retirement from playing, and in addition to his chores on the family farm, Best had been working with the Ulster set-up on an informal basis earlier in the season, spotted on the touchline during Ulster A's win over their Leinster counterparts in January.

Ulster A coach Kieran Campbell later confirmed Best was working in a mentoring role.

"During the summer Rory gave me a call," Campbell explained. "He's really busy, he's a load of things going on off the pitch between business and farming, but he was looking to just keep that connection.

"He's been in and out. He enjoys giving back and mentoring. A former captain of Ireland, hugely successful, it's been good for me too and the staff to bounce things off him on how we're doing.

"Even sitting in the box, he could give us some feedback on how we were coaching and the language we were getting down to the players. It's sort of a mentoring role all round, but to be honest. As he said himself, he was out with the cattle at the crack of dawn and just came over after."

Fiji on Tuesday named a 28-man squad for the tour, chosen from players competing in France’s Top 14 competition, the English Premiership and in other British and European tournaments.

The squad to face Spain, Wales and Georgia comprises 16 forwards and 12 backs and includes Olympic sevens gold medalists Vilimoni Botitu, Aminiasi Tuimaba and Jiuta Wainiqolo.

Fiji squad: Forwards – Peni Ravai, Eroni Mawi, Samuel Matavesi, Peniami Narisia, Luke Tagi, Mesake Doge, Leeroy Atalifo, Tevita Ratuva, Temo Mayanavanua, Albert Tuisue, Leone Nakarawa, Peceli Yato, Johnny Dyer, Masivesi Dakuwaqa, Mesulame Kunavula, Bill Mata. Backs – Frank Lomani, Nikola Matawalu, Ben Volavola, Vilimoni Botitu, Levani Botia, Eneriko Buliruarua, Waisea Nayacalevu, Josua Tuisova, Eroni Sau, Aminiasi Tuimaba, Jiuta Wainiqolo, Seta Tuicuvu.

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