To say that the Fiji Rugby Union (FRU) has not had a good week would be an understatement.
There is a growing concern at the Autumn Nations Cup about Fiji’s national 15s team, and it’s gaining momentum as each day passes.
Last week, a cancellation of the France and Fiji game, with France being awarded 28 points in the ANC competition by organisers caused an online uproar with Fiji fans, who are questioning the reasons why points were allocated. The organisers of the competition said it was in accordance with the rules of the game despite the Fiji team being unable to compete due to Fiji players being diagnosed with COVID-19.
Fiji rugby union cautiously said in a press conference that they were in positive spirits and that the situation would improve as far as they were concerned. The team is in lockdown due to 29 out of 46 members of the Fiji entourage, including players and staff, testing positive for COVID-19. Looming in the background, the New York Times reported, ‘there have been at least 2,065,100 confirmed cases of coronavirus in France, according to the French government. As of Thursday morning, 46,698 people had died.”
To put things into a greater perspective, Statista has reported that “As of November 18, 2020, there have been 348,126 deaths in Europe overall due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) since the first recorded European death in France on February 15. November 4 was the virus’ deadliest day so far in Europe with 5,482 deaths. The United Kingdom has the highest number of deaths in Europe at 52,745, as of November 18”.
Clearly, this is a classic case-study of unions, including World Rugby and organisers of the Autumn Nations Cup, prioritising fixtures instead of the welfare of players. The question fans are asking is did the FRU, WR and ANC organisers conduct a collective risk assessment prior to sending and calling in Fijian players from across the world to participate in this fixture given the world-wide risks and warnings about Europe? Were the players and their families equipped with health warnings, prior to travel?
The messaging from Fiji’s Rugby House is becoming muddier each day, leaving fans wondering what is happening to its national team. Fiji is a country where rugby is deemed a religion, hence the brewing uproar and suspicion that is beginning to cause a storm across online platforms and rightfully so. World Rugby is somewhat silent on the issue.
To further add salt to the wound for Fiji rugby union is the film release Oceans Apart by Pacific Rugby Players Welfare CE, Dan Leo. The film’s timely release is set against the backdrop of corruption, ill-treatment and payment disparities in international fixtures and the greed of Pacific unions.
Convicted murderer and previous chairperson Francis Kean and FRU President and current prime minister Frank Bainimarama feature in this documentary.