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Rugby News: Raiwalui to step away from coaching as new role confirmed, Razor won't rush call on All Blacks captain

27th November, 2023
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27th November, 2023
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Rugby Australia might be on the hunt for a new coach, but you can put a line through Simon Raiwalui.

The man who orchestrated Fiji’s historic 22-15 win over the Wallabies in Saint Etienne to help secure their place in the World Cup knockout stages confirmed he would take up a position with World Rugby as a general manager for their high-performance unit.

Raiwalui, who was Michael Cheika’s assistant at the 2019 World Cup, surprised many when he told followers via X, previously known as Twitter, that he was calling time on his association with Fiji on the eve of the World Cup final.

Simon Raiwalui will step away from coaching to become World Rugby’s general manager of high performance. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Raiwalui, who won many admirers with his respectful attitude, finished his contract with the governing body on November 23 and said “Fiji rugby will hold a special place dear to my heart”.

The respected rugby figure was shortlisted for World Rugby coach of the year. The award was taken out by Andy Farrell.

Raiwalui said he was looking forward to contributing to rugby’s development world wide.

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

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“It is something that I 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.”

Last week Fiji named Senirusi Seruvakula as their interim head coach until January.

Razor won’t rush to make call on new captain

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New Zealand Rugby might have rushed to lock in Scott Robertson as Ian Foster’s successor, but Super Rugby’s most successful coach won’t act with the same speed to name his captain.

Just as Foster’s four-year tenure with the All Blacks was surrounded by questions over his credentials and worth, so too was the reign of captain Sam Cane.

Wearing the prized No.7 jersey, Cane faced challenges over not just his leadership ability but place in the side.

In the end, both were pivotal figures in the All Black’s run to the World Cup final.

Cane controversially became the first player to be sent off in a World Cup final in their 12-11 loss to the Springboks.

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Whether the 31-year-old remains captain under Robertson remains to be seen.

Dame Patsy Reddy, All Blacks Coach Scott Robertson and NZR CEO Mark Robinson speak to the media during a New Zealand Rugby Press Conference at NZ Rugby House on March 21, 2023. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Robertson has never shied away from making the big call.

When he returned to the Crusaders set up, the first big decision he made was taking the captaincy off then-All Blacks captain Kieran Read and giving it to Sam Whitelock.

The decision proved a masterstroke, with the Crusaders snapping their near decade-long Super Rugby drought immediately in 2017.

After winning three straight Super Rugby titles under the new leadership of Robertson and Whitelock, the coach appointed Scott Barrett as skipper following the 2019 World Cup. More Super Rugby titles followed.

Their successful combination is one of the reasons many think Barrett could become the All Blacks’ next full-time captain, particularly with Cane to miss the 2024 Super Rugby season as he takes up an opportunity in the Japanese League One competition.

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But speaking to Stuff, Robertson was keeping his options close to his chest as he spoke of the importance of gathering as much information as possible in the post-World Cup wash-up.

 “I am trying to give a little bit of a runway post-World Cup before I start having conversations around captains,” Robertson told Stuff.

“I think it is important – around respect. I have talked to all the senior All Blacks, I have spent around an hour, or two, chatting around what they learned from the World Cup.

“I am starting to build an understanding, and what they think is really important is what they want to protect. But what do we need to evolve, on and off the field? They have had time to reflect, and they have been honest, which has been great.”

Sam Cane of New Zealand walks past the The Webb Ellis Cup following the Rugby World Cup Final match between New Zealand and South Africa at Stade de France on October 28, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by David Ramos - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

All Blacks captain Sam Cane walks past the The Webb Ellis Cup following the Rugby World Cup Final at Stade de France on October 28, 2023 in Paris. (Photo by David Ramos – World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Robertson doesn’t have to make a decision anytime soon, with the All Blacks’ next Test against England in July.

The former All Blacks back-rower, who finished his time with the Crusaders on a high note as he became Super Rugby’s most successful coach, said he won’t fundamentally change despite becoming the latest to be given the honour of coaching the three-time world champions.

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“Externally, I will be myself,” Robertson says. “On the inside I will be focused. You know how well you have prepared your team, but there is also that expectation … Then there will be a couple of deep breaths.”

He added: “Then you go straight into game-mode. How do you win this test match? There will be a lot of excitement, a lot of adrenaline. Some positive nervousness which prepares you to perform.”

The All Blacks will go through somewhat of a rebuilding period in 2024, with several household names either retiring or making themselves unavailable by heading offshore.

Richie Mo’unga, who was the driver of the Crusaders’ success at fly-half, is one who will be unavailable long-term after signing a three-year in Japan.

There were fears that Robertson would be without Beauden Barrett too, but the two-time World Rugby player of the year is likely to be available.

Robertson said the NZR would continue to talk to agents about finding ways for players to return to New Zealand, but added the door wasn’t shut and the form of those playing overseas would be judged on merit.

“Look, the guys who have played in Japan have come back and played good rugby. He’s hugely experienced, and it doesn’t matter where you are, you have to play well,” Robertson said.

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“That’s what All Blacks do. That was the message to him. Play well, we will watch you from afar, we will give you feedback and keep connected.”

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